Don't Fence Me In
In these paintings, I challenge the archetypal image of the cowboy by casting him as a tragic hero in a perpetual state of arrested male development. While the fiercely self-reliant cowboy of myth must ride off into the sunset to avoid being tied down, my characters are not going anywhere. Instead, they wander around in the twilight, aware that change is imminent.
In addition, the cowboy has always been the hero of the pre-adolescent, and in truth shares much in common. Personally and culturally, the cowboy is intrinsically linked to childhood. I evoke this connection by placing toys into dioramas that I construct and ultimately photograph in compositions reminiscent of film stills. An undercurrent of nostalgia runs through these works reflecting a desire to return to a supposedly simpler time of both personal and national innocence (childhood and the American Frontier). For contemporary Americans dealing with economic decline, ambiguity, and increasing complexity, nostalgic images of the past can be comforting and seductive. However, in my work, these comforts are denied by the lurid, film-noir lighting bathing the characters and their environments, casting a foreboding shadow of uncertainty and melancholy. Furthermore, the toys and constructed environments display rather than hide their artifice, pointing to the fabrication of these sentimental perspectives. In spite of a recognition of the culturally constructed nature of these romantic images, we nevertheless long for a past that never truly existed.