Snapshots and Sharpeners
The first 24 of these paintings were first displayed at the Delaplaine Art Center from September 1 through October 21, 2012. During
that time, the Frederick News-Post ran an interview with me about the works.
In Snapshots and Sharpeners, family snapshots from my childhood are depicted with toy figures from my pencil sharpener collection replacing me and my brothers in the photographs. By doing so, the snapshots represent not just my own youth but the seemingly innocent early stages of the modern consumer culture which we now live in.
With a few rare exceptions, none of the conflicts or turbulence of
the time show up in these family albums. What we see instead is a very
limited glimpse of holidays,
birthday parties, visits from relatives and trips to such amazing
destinations as the Upside-down house and Storyland, all of which makes the collection of snapshots a decidedly wholesome view of that time period.
The presence of the toy figures pushes that view to an extreme which makes it impossible to ignore the artificial nature of these nostalgia-tinged memories. The toys come from around the same time period, so that 1960s tourist spots and suburbia are a natural setting for these odd artifacts of consumerism. The resulting images are a clearly contrived depiction, but they nevertheless bring to life memories in ways which sometimes seem more immediate and real than the original snapshots.
I had been collecting toy pencil sharpeners for years before ever thinking to use them as subjects for paintings. I now have over 800 in my collection. Influenced by botanical illustration and the Index of American Design, I started by painting them as isolated subjects. Treating the inexpensive toys with an exaggerated reverence made the paintings themselves become the precious objects worthy of that reverence. Through these paintings, the figures can finally gaze back at the real world, boldly confronting the viewer with the absurdity of their own existence.