First and foremost, my reason for painting the Cruel and Unusual Punishment mugshot paintings is to study painting and grow as an artist. I am exploring my style trying to capture emotion through the expressions of the human face and exploring painting different flesh-tones. I don't want to waist time finding models when I could be painting, the jail roster is a bottomless resource of models to work from. The mugshots capture a complete spectrum of raw emotion. They are also copyright free photos. As well as a personal goal to grow as an artist, I am interested in painting mugshots for the contemplation they stimulate.Read More
Beauty is not a goal of my portraits, at least not in the conventional definition of the term. When I ask someone if I can paint them, I start the conversation with something like this: "My paintings are not flattering. I am not painting a portrait for a commission. I am trying to make a piece of art, some intriguing paint on canvas that will stimulate thought. I am using you more as a reference to inspire art." A likeness to the sitter is not a necessity.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment is a collection of paintings (12" by 9.25") displayed as one piece, either liner or in a grid format.
Painting mugshots, has the added element of raw human existence on a multitude of levels that encapsulates the underbelly of society. For some people the mugshot is the visual documentation of a rock bottom. In those eyes, I see a person just like me. Why them and not me? What lead them to that photo? I am interested in the different reactions people have; Some inmates this is just another photo op. Some seem to be proud. Some are filled with rage or shame. I am forced to think of the current state of racism and privilege, immigration, the justice system, mass incarceration, for-profit prisons, prohibition, legalization, addiction, mental illness, stupid mistakes, pure evil, the rich, and the poor. To me these paintings are so much more than a portrait of a person.
The taboo element that I do not have the convicts permission to paint them adds a political facet, hence the title, "Cruel and Unusual Punishment". A play on words, on one hand, some idiot artist is having his way with their image. On the other hand, mugshots are legally in the public domain and have no copy rights. Such recklessness on the part of the government is a form of public shaming and has resulted in a legalized extortion. Many convicts have had to pay third party websites to remove their mugshot, name, and alleged crime.
Shaming is not my intention. I am more interested with creating art; color combinations, brush marks, and beautiful gooey dribbles of paint. I want to capture a person's sole in their eyes, I want to tell stories and raise questions. Most importantly, I want to practice painting. Cruel and Unusual Punishment has allowed me to paint every race under the sun, tell stories of the good the bad and the ugly, and contemplate the human existence.