"A Small Town in Texas"
Everyday scenes that delve into our communal psyche leave me with endless questions. My current work explores the Army town of Killeen in Central Texas, where I grew up. While all military installations have a certain energy that might clash with their small-town hosts, Killeen/Fort Hood has experienced three mass shootings since 1991.
The first, at Luby's Cafeteria in 1991, still ranks as the most deadly in Texas' history and is among the nation's Top 10 deadliest. On the day of the shooting, I turned on the news and saw my friend's parents wheeled into ambulances on gurneys...surreal then, but almost familiar today. Since 1991, two additional mass shootings have occurred there. In recent months, increasing numbers of suicides, sexual assaults, and murders within military ranks on Fort Hood have come to light. In the movie Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore noted the proximity of a military post near Columbine High School. I immediately drew connections to Killeen, which oozes with patriotism, guns, soldiers, cowboys, poverty, drugs, and unhappy men.
Expressing these stories in the medium of oil paint allows me to study the narrative plot as it develops in my mind. The canvas size is generally small, but because the images are rich in detail, this size is easily absorbed by a viewer. The plot develops with every image, with each painting serving as a chapter.
The choice to tell my story with oil paintings, instead of photography, softens my documentarian urgency. For example, "Killer" portrays the model of weapon used in two of Killeen's mass shootings, and those weapons were purchased at "Guns Galore," not far from the entrance to Fort Hood. Taken alone, "Killer" might be seen as a tribute. Yet, going deeper, the tableau might also speak to the American culture of guns, of war, or the prevalence of suicide among veterans--all part of life in a military town like Killeen.
In my search for insights into a society's prevalence of violence, I examine the signs and symbols associated with life in Killeen today. I draw inspiration from the political and socially conscious works of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siquieros, and Antonio Berni, as well as the Social Realist artists of the WPA. My work recalls the illustrative approach of Rene Magritte or the early military iconography of Gerhard Richter. In contemporary terms, Marc Trujillo's paintings of his American purgatory in a Southwestern city, resonate with my drive to describe a changing world and the consumerism present in every American experience.
I appreciate my viewer's questions. Discovering meaning within my work is an ongoing process. Like a "find-a-word" puzzle, the work contains many social layers that only some may discover.