Mutiny in the Garden examines the political conditions embodied in America's founding agrarian philosophy as a nation formed through colonization, diverse immigrant groups and enslaved labor. I revise themes in Thomas Cole’s Course of Empire, a series of allegorical paintings in which that explores the rise and fall of empire through a style of landscape suffused with historical associations, and moralistic narratives.
In Des Espace Autres, Michel Foucault describes the concept of heterotopias as a non-hegemonic space of otherness, which simultaneously mirrors, distorts and inverts other spaces within a culture. According to his third principal of heterotopia, it is capable of juxtaposing in a single space, several real spaces and sites that are in themselves incompatible and foreign to one another. Foucault gives as example the ancient garden in the Orient as a universalizing heterotopia representing a microcosm of diverse environments. Rejecting the romanticized aesthetic of early American landscape paintings, my paintings interpret the heterotopian space as a frenetic amalgamation of historical and art historical references, interpreted through a hybridity of American and Asian painting techniques, materials and philosophies.
In Mutiny in the Garden, my painted gestures serve as visual traces to human bodies, adorned with historic textile designs and appear to penetrate in and out of the painted surface. Landscapes indicted in violence and tragedy visually fracture with images and icons of civil rights in oil and on silk. Vietnamese embroidery, antique obi mourning cloth, and linen laser cut with the 18th century designs of Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique, Jean Gabriel Charvet’s 18th century wallpaper depicting the explorations of Captain James Cook, and Spain’s Triumfa España en las Americas, a pictorial textile created to reassure viewers of Spain’s dominance in its American colonies, are collaged onto the paintings. I interpret moments and symbols that have shaped racial, cultural and religious conflict and assimilation in America. Through a type of blended narrative painting, my work refers to the complex cultural histories that mirror the American lens.