Untitled (Family Portrait), 2018 | Stacy Lynn Waddell
Untitled (Family Portrait), 2018
composition gold leaf on canvas
40 x 30 inches
“The art world is largely mistrustful of shiny things, and on some level, even fearful of them. But if sophistication is the ability to put a smile on one’s existential desperation, then the fear of a glossy sheen is actually the fear that the surface is the content. Fear of sheen is the fear that surface equals depth, that banality equals beauty, that shiny objects are merely transient concretizations of the image economy, and proof that Warhol was correct—a fact that still seems to enrage a surprising number of theoreticians.”
Excerpt from “Shiny” by Douglas Coupland, published on May 22, 2015 in e-flux.com
In 2015, The New York Times published an article entitled, “Perceptions of Race at a Glance” about social psychologist (and MacArthur Grant recipient) Jennifer Eberhardt. Dr. Eberhardt studies the effect of unconscious ideas about race on the workings of the criminal justice system. Through a series of interactions, subjects are studied as to whom they visualize as dangerous. Participants overwhelmingly select black “looking” subjects.
Sight is a collaborative process between the eye and brain. Here, the eye is the receptor and the brain acts as the processor. Learned responses to signs and symbols complicate the process. This is where things get muddled.
My work begins as an appropriative gesture. I plumb the Internet, vernacular photographs and a wide range of printed materials from trade fashion and popular culture publications to academic texts to discover literal and pictorial sources. These sources are transformed by a variety of processes that include burning/laser technology, accumulation, embossing/debossing, interference, physical distressing and gilding.
Although I use a variety of transformative techniques, gilding has become central. This process allows me to negotiate the “tension” between formal artistic principles and the narrative potential of representational motifs by constructing monochromes with provocative ocular effects. The effects, much like those of a hologram, shift the focus of vision between images and text that are gradually revealed and expanses of reflective surface and sheen.
This “shift” creates an uncertainty as to what is on the surface as the viewer cannot rely on the typical frontal tautness of a two-dimensional work, but must shift her perspective in order to take in the whole. In the process, sight is further complicated (and as a result delayed) as the viewer’s physical presence casts a shadow on the work’s surface. These works are activated by light and the degree and type of illumination offer endless opportunities for interpretation.