I am a New York-based artist, best known for my unique style that blends body art with photography. By matching the painted body and incorporating it into a physical landscape, I blur the line of reality for both the viewer and the subject.
I had my subject, UK model Kyle James, pose fully painted in front of Modern Wonders of the World. This “guerrilla-style” approach is common to many of my works. We travelled to the Modern Wonders of the World. Surrounded by the elders at the end of their lives climbing stairs with modified ski poles, and honeymooners breezing past sites holding selfie sticks, I examined Western tourism’s impact on memory making, bucket list dreams, and decaying architecture. I really wanted to understand what makes a place ‘great’. Why do these physical structures go down in history? I was amazed that, due to the nature of contemporary tourism, so many people idealize these places but they leave with some selfies, a branded trinket and a bit of disappointment. They looked… lost.
I’m profoundly interested in the culture of the selfie. Why are people traveling to these sites for only a brief moment to take a picture and brag to their friends? It completely isolates the architectural structure from its original meaning, intent and use. I am highly interested in our methods of memory – making and the ways these are digitalized globally.
I included “wonder” as a part of my process to create these works. My model and I traveled to each site and took a historical tour of the site, often with a private guide. I then returned to the site to sit and observe the architecture, decay, energy of the people and effects of tourism on the sites. Finally, we returned to create the work over a period of 1-3 hours onsite, creating and giving energy to the site.
Many photographers say they ‘take’ a picture. At major tourist sites like these, there are masses of visual consumers ‘taking’ from this environment without really appreciating the space or the history and culture of the people who made these structures. Artists are culture makers so I couldn’t approach this trip the same way – we “made” a picture and gave energy back to these places. I wanted to examine, what does it look like when we strip down our dreams and confront ourselves with the reality of these ‘wonders’ of the world. I didn’t find the fantasy the tourism industry had sold me. But what I did discover is so much richer and will shape the way I live and travel in the future.
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Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
This image is set in the charged environment of contemporary Egypt. Exploring the issues of western tourism within the context of Egyptian politics and ancient history, I had my subject pose fully painted in front of the Giza Pyramids in a Classical pose borrowed from a statue at the Egyptian Museum of Art. The model stands on top of a pile of rubble and trash at the site, a visual representation of contemporary Giza, sharply juxtaposed to the majesty of the ancient pyramids.
This work explores the history of the Roman gladiator games and contrasts that with contemporary politics within the context of the diminishing power of the voter, distracted by their “power to vote” for reality TV shows. I had my subject pose fully painted in front of the Colosseum in the emperor’s pose to kill a wounded gladiator.
Exploring issues of western tourism and the decaying impact humans are having on the Stonehenge through graffiti and misuse, I examine the conflict between an ancient site within its contemporary setting which suffers decay as it distances itself from practical use.
Great Wall of China
Exploring the issues of western tourism within the historical context of conquest and absence, I had my subject pose fully painted in front of the Great Wall of China in a classical Kung Fu pose.
Chicen Itza, Mexico
Exploring issues of western tourism and the separation people are experiencing from worshiping at these ancient Mayan prayer sites, I had my subject pose alongside the pyramid in a Mayan prayer pose suggested by our tour guide.
This image is set at the treasury of Petra. Exploring the idealization of western tourism and cinema such as “Indiana Jones”, within the context of Petra’s ancient history, I had my subject adventurously climb the rock face of Petra, which the treasury and town were carved from.
Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile
These three works examine the effects of western tourism and the island’s contemporary melange with Chile, where the Rapa Nui culture and the moai’s ancestral connection threaten to disappear.
Machu Picchu, Peru
This work provides a meditative and harmonious distance from the mountain and site of Machu Picchu which had a thriving indigenous population and industry. Exploring issues of western tourism and conquest, this work examines the decaying impact humans are having on the Machu Picchu through graffiti and misuse. I had my subject rested in an Incan warrior seated pose.
Ahu Akivi, Easter Island, Chile
I had my subject pose in a variety of Rapa Nui warrior dance poses disappearing into the moai.
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