What does it mean to have ¾ scale plaster casts of the Elgin Marbles next to your swimming pool? Many aesthetic icons from the past have become floating signifiers today, divorced from their original context. This is visible in the chaotic circulation of images on the internet as well as in the heterogeneous architecture of contemporary America. I take these instances backyard colonnades, Greco-Roman ranch homes, the Getty Villa as the basis of my visual iconography and as points of creative departure.
In my paintings I intentionally misquote elements of art history to reflect what I see as a more pervasive cultural phenomenon that reflects the key issues of our era. Growing up in Los Angeles, I was desensitized to the artifice of the Disneyland castle, the Tudor houses in the suburbs, and countless pyramids and pagodas that appear to have washed ashore far from their original place in time and space. Now I see how these structures embody indiscriminate historical appropriation and regurgitation. Perhaps this is the architecture of a new fin de siècle.
Our culture presents these references without hierarchy: in my Grandmothers house, a framed, souvenir postage stamp from the 1988 Olympics in South Korea hangs beside a slapdash watercolor from Santa Fe. In her garden grow tropical bromeliads and potted cactus. At Disneyland, the Cinderella Castle imitates Neuschwanstein Castle, itself a 19th Century imitation of Gothic architecture, and stands along side a reproduction of New Orleanss French Quarter and above a frontier street from the Old West. In his essay Travels in Hyperreality, Umberto Eco writes, The condition for the amalgamation of fake and authentic is that there must have been a historic catastrophe, of the sort that has made the divine Acropolis of Athens as venerable as Pompeii, city of brothels and bakeries. I too sense something dubious in these juxtapositions; rather than reject them as inauthentic, however, I take inspiration from their absurdity.
I find that these inorganic aesthetic experiences have a strange beauty of their own. The novelty of imitation can be more desirable than the aura of the authentic. Visitors to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum go to marvel at the art of imitation, not to suspend their disbelief at the sight of Michael Jackson and Marie Antoinette side by side. The appeal in Disneylands Jungle Cruise ride is the sophistication of the animatronic animalsif riders wanted the real thing they could drive cross-town and visit the zoo.
Though Ive only begun my exploration of these issues, I aspire to negotiate the ambiguous value of the fake. This project advances the dialogue initiated by André Malraux in his Museum Without Walls a prescient model for the way that the internet presents images as decontextualized reproductions. In our society, digital media has superseded original, physical artworks in accessibility and popularity. By manipulating images through collage and exposing areas of underpainting, I make the mechanics of the tools of production an evident part of the picture. This encourages the viewer to acknowledge the artifice of images and to question the consensus that the fake must be measured against the authentic rather than appreciated as a category of its own.