Faculty Advisor

Elise Richman

Artist Statement

Most straightforwardly, this body of artwork abstractly and figuratively investigates bodies, symbols, rituals, and the perceptual affects of many different types of paint application. This collection of works intends to reinterpret the narrative functions of Roman figural sculptures within a contemporary aesthetic framework outlined by Gilles Deleuze in the Logic of Sensation. My preliminary research began with a short time studying high-classical sculpture abroad in Italy, where I had the opportunity to regularly sketch from three-dimensional marble statuary. This gave me indispensable practice in understanding and visually translating the planes of the human body, while also allowing me the freedom to experiment with exaggeration and reinterpretation of specific aspects, gestures, or body parts within the figure and its environment. This early exploration of figuration and gesticulation was foundational for my work later in the research process. In the resulting images, I wanted to generate a visual dialogue between the provocative and gestural figures of antiquity and what I saw as our present-day habits and surroundings, simply to see if reinterpretations or rebirths of these classical forms could facilitate a different approach to figuration in my own painting practice. A facet which has been particularly intriguing to me, from both aesthetic and symbolic standpoints, has been the psychological and gestural intensity left in 2000-year old sculpted stone, and how these expressions could be understood as belonging to the same human struggles that we experience in present-day conditions. In addition to my work with the figure, my research has been guided by the Logic of Sensation, a text briefly mentioned earlier, within which contemporary French philosopher Gilles Deleuze outlines a variety of aesthetic approaches and decisions in accordance with the figurative work of 20th century painter, Francis Bacon. Bacon’s situational use of a multiplicity of affects such as scrubbing, layering, impasto paint application, gestural mark-making, and large, aggressive brushstrokes facilitate complex visual analyses and multiple levels of meaning. Deleuze is thus able to draw many interesting conclusions about the artist’s methodology and its affects: these range from analysis of Bacon’s ability to visualize gesture, momentum, and internal/external forces; the interesting narrative implications when combining the figurative and the abstract; and the importance of using both haptic (direct, manual, physical) and optic (visual, illusionistic) painting techniques in order to create a more aesthetically complete, emotive, and sincere body of work. These diverse techniques and approaches have lent themselves to a pluralistic approach in my own work, in which I used a variety of media, styles, and techniques for increased visual interest in the figures and their environments. Bacon’s compositions have been additionally influential in my work, and typically culminate on a centralized, isolated figure: a result of this is an ambiguous narrative in which the figure is an actor with no specific story to tell, a viscerally painted mass functioning obscurely within his interior. The viewer’s attention is brought specifically to the application of the paint itself. I have wanted to play with this format within my own work for quite some time—this approach specifically supported my intention to incorporate statuary into my paintings, as I could simply set/reinterpret these ‘ready-made’ figures and then create settings or spaces that could re-characterize them, giving them a new yet still ambiguous narrative function. Throughout the summer I have explored these various possibilities for setting statues into alternate environments, and in constructing my more complete pieces I became fascinated with the prospect of reworking the figures into allegories for 21st century life and ritual. I wanted to facilitate the transformation of figures that had once told stories of sacred rituals or narratives of antiquity into new figures that would visualize more contemporary, profane ritualistic behavior and habits. By reconceptualizing these timeless forms within contemporary domestic spaces through Deleuzian aesthetics, my aim has been to create surreal dramas centered on the modern human and present-day customs. I have explored different methods of painting items such as small, contemporary objects; modern household ornamentation; and the wires and tubes of typical conduit systems (plumbing, electricity) as ‘evidence’ of my own habits and rituals, which I have understood as icons or symbols of modern living and routines. Through varied use of color and playful paint application, I aimed to render these objects strange and almost absurd in relation to both the viewer and the figure in the image. The figures continue to testify to the universal human concerns and emotive intensity that they once had embodied in their original narrative context, even if their initial narrative function becomes misconstrued and more ambiguous within the present-day setting. Such sculpture, seemingly both animate and inanimate, has become indispensable in my painting practice as surrogates for the traditional figure.


image preview

Title of Work



Pencil, China Marker, Colored Pencil


5" x 12"

Date of Completion



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