Video of E.A, Stuart MFA Solo Thesis Exhibiion
This exhibition is an examination of how spaces and objects affect the individual and how those influences are manifested in how they choose to present themselves to society. The project began with the creation of the sculptures; an examination of using different forms of restraint (cardboard, garbage bags and bubble wrap) which returned interesting results. These materials used for packaging, safeguarding, and creating barriers left an imprint on the cement. Cardboard sagged under the weight of the poured cement, creating impressions of drooping. Bubble wrap was unyielding, the cement was forced to adapt around the packaged air and print transferred from the plastic into the cement. The garbage bags restricted some sections, yet in others it was consumed by the concrete unable to be removed. This made me consider the constructs of society, real and virtual, and the imprint they leave on the individual. The buildings created for specific societal purposes impose codes of conduct including dress, language and behavioral codes of conduct. It is a space where there is the immediate reaction of the individual to the space. In virtual spaces, like social media, there is the absence of the barrier between the physical body and space, which relieves the immediacy and allows the individual time to consider how to present themselves in those spaces. Everyone has a unique experience in both spaces, which will influence how the individual will present themselves in a type of portrait; through their appearance, language and behavior.
I chose to create sculptures in cement. The brutalist nature of the material speaks to its purpose for constructing spaces for practical purposes. It exposes the mystery of how something is made, allowing the concentration of why it was made. What is the purpose and how should we react to it. Concrete also has an ephemeral quality. It is a cheap and easy building material, that is conducive to a fast-changing world. Concrete buildings can be broken down and rebuilt for new purposes to meet societal needs. I began by making portraits as a reaction to these objects. I pull the character out of the structure. Projecting emotions and postures onto the static sculpture gives it a personality that correlates to its purpose. I then painted a portrait of an individual based upon the character discovered in the previous painting. Adding narrative through their appearance, posture and title. I made multiple painted portraits from the sculptures from different angles. I chose to make oil paintings on vellum due to the transparent nature of the materials. The personalities we present change according to the spaces we are inhabiting in that moment. They become portraits that represent that specific moment to be consumed by the public, when they are no longer necessary, they are replaced with another.
The current course of my art practice is to examine how spaces, real or virtual affect how the individual perceives themselves and in turn presents that image to the world. I am interested in the interplay between object and reflexive objectification and the dialogue that negotiates these spaces and perspectives. I create sculptures and paintings. Sculptures are the physical representations of ideas, and paintings are the impressions of those manifestations. I choose to work in both mediums, since the goal is to examine the interaction between object and perception. Every object that takes up space in the physical world demands a response of being perceived by an individual. The individual, in turn, will interpret their relationship to the object and then project that response out into the world. We do not see the action of the influence of the object on an individual’s perception, but we do see the results of that interaction in the "portrait” that is produced. Producing multiple paintings from a single object from different angles and moments allows me to explore how time and perspective affect the interpretation of the object. When the sculptures and paintings are displayed together, the encrypted conversation between the two is revealed.
Experimentation and excavation are important to my process. The concrete is cast with minimal planning, allowing me the freedom to explore the results of different surfaces, cracks, positive and negative space are created. When used as a building material, concrete is cold, solid and inexpensive. The main utility of cement structures is to create a space for a specific purpose. When the need for the structure becomes redundant or obsolete it is removed, replaced, or refurbished to meet new demands. The portraits are created in a single sitting to create the specific moment in which the sculpture is being viewed at a specific time and place. I paint the portraits on thin transparent vellum with oils. These mediums are chosen for their transparent quality and speak to the immediacy or temporality of the moment. A personality or impression is made or captured. I project emotion and subjectivity into the paintings. I imagine a narrative for the individuals depicted, which informs their hair, clothing and eventually the titles. I prefer to consider these paintings as portraits, a representation of an individual as they wish to be perceived. These staged moments are meant to imply status and position as they relate to specific times and spaces. The narrative serves as a bridge between the two materials. The structure is the product of societal needs, the portrait is the product of the structures' influence on the individual. A symbiotic relationship between object and image has been materialized.
I would like to thank the members of my Graduate Committee; Mike Rea, Nina Rizzo and Frank Trankina for their invaluable guidance throughout my time here at Northern Illinois University School of Art and Design. It would not have been possible without their support. I would also like to thank my parents David and Kathleen Stuart, without whom I would not exist, but also made it possible for me to return to school and finish my BFA and MFA after a 20-year hiatus.