During the winter out in a warehouse space in Athens, GA I decided to paint something different. I was coming to an end with my project with Disney in where I was painting 100 different things revolving around the same silhouette of the classic Mickey Mouse face. From the beginning of this project, I started with the classic geometric shapes and lines that I was used to, but over the course of five years my aesthetic slowly started to change, . .and this was primarily forced into the project as .. how can one NOT change when trying to paint 100 of the same silhouettes and not be boring? I became less interested in communicating in color, and more interested in creating different and more complex content for the viewer. As I progressed past each one, my pieces became more saturated and more chocked full of emotional structures. The story became more in-depth, and by the last piece everything became so complex that it was impossible to just start over with anything being ‘simple’.
It was a perfect segway into this new project, entitled “Art Outsiders”, which was created by Leslie Combemale (Cinema Siren and head honcho over at ArtInsights Gallery) out in the Washington D.C. Metro area. Since I was riding on the waves of telling someone’s story and creating dialogues in my last project, we decided to extend this idea into telling the story inside the portraits of people. More specifically, all of these people have something in common, as they were ‘outsiders’ in their own element.
It was something that I could not only physically DO, but it was something that I could relate to. In every bit of the sense I relate to the outsider story. I was born colorblind, and yet continued to pursue my life as a painter. I failed out of art school, and my aesthetic was labeled as ‘nauseating’ by my teachers. I got a 2 bit degree from a no name college in apparel design and couldn’t land a fashion job to save my life.
I still worked.
I STILL worked, and gained recognition for my portraits of drag queens. I mostly showed in bars and coffee houses because no gallery would have me. I had no degree in painting, and no formal training, and wasn’t accepted as an artist in the fine art world.
I still painted.
I STILL painted, often working in the corporate world to pay the bills.. and it would be MANY MANY years until I’d have the chance to show in gallery spaces. I was insidious and relentless with my work. If a city wouldn’t accept my work as serious, I would often move to another place and start over there. I’d walk with my portfolio in the random cities I lived in, often to be turned away because my work was uninteresting and rudimentary.
I kept going.
I kept trying.
I kept doing.
I kept walking into galleries even though I knew I’d be rejected, and eventually people started taking me in. I ended up at the World of Wonder Gallery for Season 1 of RuPaul’s Drag Race in where I showed my work of San Francisco drag queens.
Things began to happen.
Eventually, and by complete accident, I ended up working for Disney in licensing and product development through a temp job that became permanent and expanded into something else, something more. It was here where my work was discovered, and I was given multiple attempts to prove myself as an artist. I was untrained as a painter and sketch artist, and I would fail MANY MANY times before I was pitched to Disney Fine Art.
And even now in my career with Disney that’s done quite well, magazine and television interviews, and multiple product lines developed with my drawings on housewares and clothing, I still am considered an outsider of the fine art world because I was not classically trained, and I have made a living as a commercial artist.
I am an outsider. My work does not neatly fit into any division of a current art movement. My work does not compliment others in group shows…. and I am often the neon sore thumb in a sea of classically trained works.
I am an outsider. I am story teller. I am a painter, and I will never stop working.
In this project, I will be creating portraits of people who were outsiders of their own field of work. From science, music, art, writing, fashion, and beyond, I will be writing the stories of each outsider’s life, and imbedding it into the structure of their portrait. Here the piece acts dually as a portrait AND a story, and all of them combined will talk about persevering through the darkest of times to create a different kind of beauty that changed the world.