American Kiss comprises large-scale oil paintings and small- to medium-sized black and white ink works on paper. The oil paintings depict life-size androgynous couples floating in or emerging from richly colored landscapes. The monochromatic works are tightly cropped portraits of figures kissing or embracing that suggest film stills, connecting a proverbial image of romantic love with homosexual love and desire.
The imagery I reference in this work is cinematic and sentimental. I’m interested in how such decidedly recognizable (even clichéd) images can be altered to the point where something fresh and much less familiar is revealed. In the process of making this work, I personally went through a long progression of stripping away, condensing and expanding before arriving at an imagery that felt transformative and alive.
The desire and yearning in these paintings is overt and overblown. But it is also hidden. The paintings are queer in the sense that one can see them and not even realize what one’s looking at. The figures and their identities are not as easily identifiable as they may seem to be. The whos and whats are open to question. In some cases, it is impossible to distinguish the gender of the figure or figures, although at first glance we may find, as viewers, that we fill in some of the gaps and see what we have been conditioned to see, rather than what is actually depicted.
Pacific is the most iconic of these works and was the catalyst for the entire project. I’m very interested in the iconic image, by which I mean a picture with emblematic power that serves as an object of devotion or meditation, revealing itself over time. Pacific invites the viewer to penetrate and inhabit the pictorial space, to discover the unknown within an image that we think we know so much about.