I make art about the intertwined histories of pharmaceuticals and color. My pointillist, color-saturated paintings, sculptures, and videos, infused with actual pharmaceuticals and chemicals, utilize imagery from art history and advertising to explore the ecstasy and toxicity of our molecular present. The “pharmakon,” a Greek term that simultaneously means cure, poison, and paint and is the origin of the English words “pharmaceutical” and “toxic”, is a concept that centers the work. Each molecule of pigment or drug, be it pleasurably mind-altering, physically poisonous, or both, contains the entire history of its invention, production, marketing, and consumption.
Most recently focusing on painting, I work from images taken from pharmaceutical advertising that bear an uncanny reference to art historical works, particularly from the Impressionist period, which was contemporaneous with the rise of synthetic chemistry. These images of idealized leisure form potent means of understanding representations of race, gender, sexuality, class, and health.
I transform these advertisements into vibrant paintings of figures in landscapes and blasts of abstract patterns. Working on synthetic substrates such as Kevlar ballistic fabric and polyester canvases, each dot, made with custom tools, is a particular pill’s exact size and shape. That small oval or circle, often placed over a complementary underpainting to maximize vibration, is the color that corresponds to the branding of that pharmaceutical, an actual sample of which is mixed into the paint. Different combinations of color and drugs create vibrant, molecular contrasts visually and conceptually, such as juxtaposing painkillers with opioid blockers, or synthetic estrogen and testosterone. I often experiment with placing works over walls covered with painted Tyvek panels, creating a cacophonous installation of color and molecules.