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Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2017

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author Department/Program

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art

Degree Type

Thesis

Abstract

Abstract

Is trauma a key accelerant to creating compelling art? How central should this question be in developing one’s art practice? I begin with these two questions and transition into examining how a single traumatic event, the suicide of my twin brother, Le’ad Rosenblith, redefined my ability to imagine and perceive myself. Through telling the first handfirsthand account of living with this other person, the boundary between my own life and my twins life became porous and at certain times interchangeable. Then, ten years ago, in an instant, that lifelong connection was gone.

After presenting my firsthand account of the events that lead to my brother’s suicide, I transition into how my art practice became a way to formulate a new individualized identity. Through a process of trial and error, I found myself drawn to various populist mediums: murals, books, printed matter and painting. These flat surfaces are then layered in a dense web of grotesque cartoon imagery, my personalized visual language. This pictorial strategy is employed to address both personal and historical narratives dealing with trauma. Robert Crumb and Daniel Clowes influenced my approach to image making. These two comic artists provide their viewers with deeply, dark, sequential narratives that exhumed each artist’s id for their readers. Artists like Philip Guston, Dana Schutz, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and Nicole Eisenman provided a “third way” to utilize the graphic impulses of the cartoon image at a grand scale, transforming the surfaces of their paintings into palimpsests that give up ghostly narratives. These influences help inspire the formation of my first publication, PINK a compilation of my sketchbook work from 2011-13. The subject of these small doodles are imaginary human heads that act as reminders of death.

Today, ten years after my twin’s death, I feel compelled to readdress this personal trauma into my art practice in a more direct way. This lead to a body of work utilizing the authority of a university museum to legitimize a fictionalized space: A Retrospective of Edo and Le’ad Rosenblith-The Radiant Twins.

Language

English (en)

Program Director

Patricia Olynyk

Program Director's Department

Graduate School of Art

Thesis Advisor

Buzz Spector

Committee Member

Lisa Bulawsky

Committee Member

Lisa Bulawsky

Committee Member

Adrian Cox

Committee Member

Cole Lu

Artist's Statement

The majority of my work can be seen as an effort to weave together the disparate accounts of my experiences and observations, filtered through the lens of a personalized cartoon language. Over time, I have found myself drawn to various populist mediums: murals, books, and printmaking as different arenas to employ a dense web of grotesque cartoon imagery. This pictorial strategy is used to address both personal and historical narratives dealing with trauma.

Within my work, the question arises how my autobiography intersects with the desire to presents a larger social and political critique. The key to unifying these interests comes from examining how trauma connects us all. History is precisely the way we are implicated in each other's traumas. The comic image or caricatures remain unique in their ability to depict our collective trauma and cultural derangements. Both are highly critical tools allowing for an engaging image which can be absorbed by a larger audience.

Since 2010, when I was an assistant for the artist, Steven Westfall, at the American Academy in Rome mural making has become an important aspect of my art practice. This was a slow evolution from micro to macro, venturing away from the drafting desk, toward large-scale murals and installations. Instead of creating intimacy with the viewer through a small picture window, now I engulf the viewer with dense drawings composed of white lines against black, void-like surfaces. In retrospect, this change came from a desire to push myself to experiment with scale and materials and to distill part of my art practice to automatic drawing executed at a grand-scale. The result is a dense Where’s Waldo-like composition with almost no visual hierarchy, where viewers select imagery and make meaning on their own. The intention is to provide a maximalist approach designed to reward the audience the longer the work is examined.

This act of translating and building upon my own visual vocabulary turns each image I create into a palimpsest- like surface, that relays the ghostly narratives of personal and collective experiences. Together, this amalgamation creates new compositions and relationships for the audience to wrestle with and contemplate. In some cases, the work will hopefully induce a physical reaction from the viewer, preferably one of laughter.

Available for download on Sunday, September 18, 2044

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