The ultimate goal of my work is to create a micro-community based on art trading within the gallery space. I aim to do this by creating portraits that reflect important aspects of community, and then by transforming these portraits into a card game that inspires interaction between participants. How do these two aspects fit together into a cohesive body of work?
In my portraits I expose my friends by highlighting something of personal significance to each of them. Each portrait has an alteration which references either that friend’s mode of escapism, their means to center themselves or something they enjoy doing. Highlighting this personal information visually reveals my friends. By using my friends as subject matter, I am also exposing myself: in my body of work I am providing a snapshot of my personal community. That personal exposure is interesting to me because vulnerability is inextricably linked with genuine connection and community.
The game I have created is a way to make that exposure accessible to gallerygoers while also creating a network among participants that encourages interaction and connection. This idea of accessibility in my work is inspired by Takashi Murakami’s Superflat Museum. Murakami created affordable figurines (shokugan toys) of his famous, big sculptures in what he explains as a way to democratize art. He writes, “I hope that the shokugan figure, which customers may purchase at a convenience store, will become a ‘starter kit’ for an art collection.” I knew going into comps that I wanted my art to be more than just art on the wall and Murakami’s piece showed me how I could do just that.
The card format not only makes the portraits more accessible, but allows them to function on a personal level that excites the imagination. Similar to Sikander’s small-scale illuminations, these pieces are able to function on a very personal level because of their small size. Furthermore, in Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte writes that the small multiple serves to create a visualization of possibility. I hope that the size of these cards lead participants to visualize alternative possibilities – the possibilities that they can create.
Making my art accessible and personal is key to the card game that will prompt connection between audience members. Those who want to participate will receive three trading cards and can play one of a few roles, such as art critic or art collector. Each role will describe a set of interactions, such as “trade each of your cards with different participants” or “analyze a fellow participant’s three portraits.” The prompts are designed to give participants the freedom to express their thoughts and make their own decisions in reaction to the prompts. This idea was inspired by what Karen Wirth called Reader Reception Theory. In short, I want an audience member’s interpretations and actions regarding their three cards to be as important as the thoughts and decisions I have made in creating the portraits. My hope is that, inspired by their imaginations, participants can cocreate alternative interpretations of the pieces in a space that encourages connection and supports autonomy.