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John Lennon

by Gene Tanta
Decatur US

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The Artwork

For the assassinated figures series, I first decided on a theme (I'd been thinking about Andy Warhol's so-called "Death and Destruction" series of the 1960s—how he created a complex ambiguity between critiquing our sordid fascination with death and fame while also, ironically, celebrating it), then I researched it, selected the images with strong compositions, and then set about refining a process of media layering (pencil, illustration marker, food dye, handmade walnut ink) and kinds of actions (tracing projected images, squeegeeing, brushing, scrubbing). With Conceptual Art and Conceptual Writing traditions in mind, this series of about 30 portraits spotlights the irony of socially engineered death as eye candy. Though the individuals whose likenesses I represent have been deleted from the social fabric by violent normative forces, these images are no monuments to restorative nostalgia: rather, they work as objects eliciting reflective nostalgia asking viewers to dwell on our social loss and longing, to use the comparative literature scholar Svetlana Boym's terms. These paintings offer viewers visual and linguistic paradoxes to think through the past. I have come to think of language itself as a medium. Pointing to the ever-flowing paint beneath my brush with drips and other incidental marks affords me the occasion to suggest that our deeply held human desire for closure is a teleological illusion. The work is always done. The work is never done. Why raise the dead? Why raise questions? What is the good (after)life? How do we mourn better?

The Artist

Why do you create? I make art because I have to for a sense of fulfillment. It's not so much a cathartic release as it is a pulse of my living imagination.
How do you work? I work in series based on themes such as the portraits of assassinated figures, cairns, and biographical objects such as passport photographs or childhood sketches of houses.
Has your creative process changed over time, if so, how? I move from one series to another but they always inform and overlap each other. For instance, the use of food dyes in the assassinated figures series merged over to the cairn series in my use of a large squeegee.
Do you consider yourself a full-time or part-time artist? Having shifted by attention to painting and drawing since 2015, I enjoy focusing all my creative energy on visual art.
Besides creating, where else do you spend your time? I enjoy playing catch with my son and pushing my daughter on the swing. Sometimes at the same time, which takes some coordination!
What inspires you? I find inspiration in thinking and reflecting on moods and their representations. The prospect of intervening sensitively excites me. I enjoy find a visual rhythm.
What is the first piece of art you remember creating? Drawing on my grandfather grid paper in Romania in the farmhouse by the window in the morning light filtered through the grapevine. Or maybe I was just daydreaming; it was the fecundity of the moment I remember.
What does the term art mean to you? Liberty of motion.
Name three artists that you respect? Paul Klee, Philip Guston, George Grosz
What is your favourite piece of artwork? Guernica by Picasso
What is your dream project? I dream of traveling and learning and creating with the support from the sales of my artworks.
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