Daniel Cooney Fine Art, NYC, 2011
American Kiss (2009-2011) is the first body of work I made after graduate school. it comprises large-scale oil paintings and small- to medium-sized black and white ink works on paper. The oil paintings depict life-size androgynous couples floating in or emerging from richly colored landscapes. The monochromatic works are tightly cropped portraits of figures kissing or embracing that reference film stills and connect the cinematic image of romantic love with homosexual love and desire. A skewed gravitational and perspectival scheme, along with an obscuring and entanglement of the physical boundaries of the body, suggests the arbitrary nature of borders.
I’m interested in making art that is simultaneously formally rigorous and socially engaged. Mainstream popular culture has rendered certain groups and individuals invisible. In this work, I appropriate popular imagery to acknowledge and celebrate the existence of queer* love and experience. This project subverts the familiar, rich tradition of romantic (love) imagery in painting and popular imagery to upend commonly held expectations about gender and sexuality.
By placing queer love literally “at the center” (compositionally, thematically and culturally), American Kiss offers an alternative to existing subcultures and expands the representational canon depicting love and human dignity. The dark legacy of the closet also has a place in this work – in the recurring emblem of the hidden or anonymous face.
*I use the term “queer” in the broadest sense – as meaning “unconventional” – as well as in specific reference to gender fluidity and sexuality.