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Phenomenological Pop Art

December 16, 2011

24KT Goldie Hawn by Shellie Lewis, 24” x 36”

I have been in the process of tweaking my artist statement for this particular series of paintings for the past three years.  This is in addition to experimenting with materials and digital media.  I think my artist statement is now the best that it has ever been.  If you like the intellectual discourse surrounding art theory and criticism, you may find this interesting.  Part of my goal in these works was to bridge -and join- the usually separate Traditional and Conceptual art models.



“Phenomenological Pop Art”

Shellie Lewis

I am currently investigating the concept of making paintings that cannot be accurately photographed. These works operate on two different levels; they are representational Pop Art paintings that can be appreciated by people without a fine arts education, and they have a Conceptual basis. These paintings challenge the accuracy of photography as vehicle for authentically representing reality, challenge the human desire for the fixity of vision that a photographic image captures and challenge assertions that hand-made paintings lack value in our current era of mass image production.

My current paintings are works that I categorize as contemporary Pop Art as influenced by ideas from Phenomenology and Walter Benjamin’s essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. These paintings draw on the influences of early, hand-made Pop Art, before mechanical processes came to characterize the movement by the removal of visible gesture from the hand of the artist and are influenced by Modernist hard-edged painting techniques. My paintings have multiple purposes:

• They are paintings whose images are destroyed when photographed. The materials used in the works change in different kinds of light, with different viewing angles and viewing distances. They are intended to be Phenomenological and must be viewed in person to be understood by a viewer as they cannot be accurately photographed. All images of my paintings had to be heavily digitally manipulated to more accurately approximate representations of each work.

• To continue Pop Art as an American tradition and intentionally be über-kitsch in defiance of Clement Greenberg’s Avant Garde and Kitsch essay, thus reflecting ephemeral, contemporary subject matter and intentionally using non-traditional or less traditional media in defiance of boundaries between “high” and “low” art. This is also expressed in using non-traditional art media in the paintings.

• To create works which contains autobiographical content and also include themes in the ongoing works which include gender issues, icons of mass culture, cultural reflections / culture jamming and appropriation.

This painting series has a great deal of portraiture as a mainstay subject of Pop Art and also includes subjects drawn from appropriated signage and Semiotics. There is imagery from mass manufactured goods as aspects of visual culture and further autobiographical communications in the forms of symbols.

The paintings challenge photography, in particular the concept of the Indexical quality of images as described by Charles Sanders Peirce. I am also interested in the Indexical quality of images as expressed by paintings involving imagery which provides visual imagery for and mental comprehension of something to a viewer but has no real world visible component the unassisted eye is capable of witnessing such as x-ray, sonogram / ultrasound and microscopy. We allow machines to define and depict our world, but we rarely account for the limitations of and structures of the machines used as also filtering the information of what we call “reality”. Video imagery, television and photography are readily accepted as expression of what is real. Hyper-reality is a dominant mode of mass media expression in a world where visual realities are heavily manually and digitally crafted. The visible differences that can be perceived from viewing my paintings in person versus viewing any static photographic image of the paintings challenges beliefs in the accuracy of photographic images. The series of paintings create an experience that proves the limitations of machine representations of reality in contrast to actual experience.

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