American Portrait

Story

American Portrait

2018

Oil on Linen

72″ x 42″

 

American Portrait, evokes power and emotion that feels significant to our current political climate in the United States, and communicates a combination of compassion, anxiety, pride, and understanding that can be felt throughout this country. This painting shows a kind of modern day “Tank Girl,” armed and ready for whatever comes next. Looking as though she is climbing to the top of a sprawling city to find safety, they are surrounded by relics of fallen children, teddy bears. Throughout this painting I have used symbolic details as a way to add context and references to further support the messages in this piece.

 

The discarded bears at her feet represent the memories of the rising number of children and teenagers that are shot and killed every year in this country. The bears are tattered and slumped over as if they were dead like the young victims gone too soon. Additionally, there’s a fly on one of the bears further emphasizing death.

 

The city looks far away, like many of the global issues look to us every day, additionally hinting at the motivation for this woman to get away or above the turmoil. Her timeless and youthful appearance and style confuses the role of the subject, letting the viewer decide whether this figure is a victim, a family member of a victim, or a shooter; much like how we can never tell who will be an assailant. The stormy skies depict the feelings many have about our country right now, tumultuous, intimidating, energized, and dangerous. The worried look on the figure’s face also adds anxiety to this work of art.

 

Although this piece is a full-body composition offering a broader look at society through a personified lens, its historical and symbolic references turn this painting into a fascinating interpretation of a contemporary portrait. The woman is armed with a semi-automatic rifle, helmet, goggles, combat boots, and a camping pan hooked to their belt, this person is ready to never go home. Scratched into the gun she holds is the statement “end to the torment,” which was scratched into the gun of Washington Navy Yard shooter from 2013, and a tally of the victims taken by these shootings. All of the symbols and buttons on her clothing represent different shootings. Her earrings, necklace, and glasses hide symbolic details as well. Her glasses have a hidden cross on the side for the church shootings such as Sutherland Springs and African Methodist Episcopal. Her necklace also has a hidden cross. One of her earrings is of a mummy with a heart on it that says “Art” for the art class shooting that happened shortly after the Parkland shooting. The other earring is of a faceless child with a backpack and a target on its t-shirt, representing all the school shootings and the young victims that were killed.

 

This painting expresses a variety of emotions that are significant to our current political climate in the United States, with specific attention to the many recent mass shootings in our contemporary America and our personal and cultural reactions to them. The issue of gun violence in this country is a nationwide concern and is a relevant topic of our current American identity. American Portrait touches on the hopes, fears, and emotional weight that comes with these consistent horrifying attacks against our values, life, and love in this country.