Sites of Power
This series explores structures in which power, an abstract concept, is embodied or performed. The paintings are based on my photographs of the scale models at Istanbuls Miniaturk theme park. As imagery is translated from one medium to another, it becomes distorted: the real is processed and filtered, creating distance between the viewer and subject.
Painted with a clear reference to their photographic sources, but with severe cropping and awkward point-of-view, the images are reduced to formal composition, pattern and color, remaining only minimally recognizable. These quasi-abstract paintings thus return the reified concept of power to an abstract state, denuding the structures of the power they once wielded.
Further erosion occurs as moments of material imperfection are featured: cracks in plaster, Astroturf that curls up from its substrate, water stains on tarmac. In this way, an element of human frailty and disintegration is apparent in the otherwise idyllic model. The grand structures with which humans proclaim their power, wealth, status, and knowledge are not merely places: their influence and control over human behavior are performative exercises of power. When the building blocks are viewed up close, however, the intimidation upon which this control is based begins to break down.
This series attempts to further dismantle the mythology of such sites by disregarding the actual grand buildings as source material: the paintings instead reference photographs of their scale models. In presenting a miniature facsimile, models tame and disarm the mighty. When these tamed structures are subsequently photographed, they become souvenirs that literally fit in ones pocket, or in the palm of ones hand. This reference is significant and, consequently, the paintings preserve photographic details such as shallow depth of field and bokeh produced by the camera lens.
These paintings employ the naïve language of toys, models, and plastic dolls to investigate the unsettling realm of international political conflict. Many Americans experience events in Iraq solely through imagery mediated by news outlets, or other filtration systems. These paintings replicate the process of filtration, and the inevitable simplification and distortion of facts, as real-world signifiers are transformed first into a model, then into a photograph, and finally, into a painting.
Seen from a safe distance, imagery of the war elicits a range of responses including, among others, voyeurism, apathy, denial, self-concern, and impotent compassion. The fighting there is clearly far from over. But as our soldiers and correspondents return, the war also comes home, along with a multiplicity of painful struggles that will remain with us for many years. These paintings examine some of the many ways Americans have experienced the Iraq war. Model figures and toy dolls represent the housewife, the student, the businessman, and the soldier, all occupying the uneasy utopia of a model world. External signifiers, which suggest a greater embattled reality, interrupt this world and impose themselves on the viewer.