The central focal point of this body of work was Scott Pruitt, who was the chief administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration. For me, he epitomizes the sins of our current political climate. People who are familiar with Scott Pruitt may recall his idiotic abuses of power, fueled by an acute paranoia and sense of righteousness, to purchase frivolous things with tax payers’ money. But these are almost superficial compared to the actions he made in his short tenure, in one of the most important jobs of these times, when climate change is one of the most serious problems humanity faces today. For instance, he proposed to repeal or delay more than 30 significant environmental rules in his first year at the EPA. All the while Pruitt has construed Christianity to justify his acts of evil for self-enrichment. He has consistently expressed the belief that it is God’s providence for him to commit these heinous acts of injustice. Pruitt had a choice to act on the advice from environmental experts and make legislation for a cleaner, safer future but he deliberately acted in bad faith for short term financial gains for himself and his corporate sponsors.
To illustrate my thoughts and feelings about Pruitt’s legacy I painted a small portrait of him in the middle of a relatively large bright red canvas. He is small because I believe him to be small-minded, biased, and unreceptive to the good of humanity and our future. I watered down a vibrant red so as to make the brightness of the gesso shine through and enhance its hue. It is both attractive and repulsive and when the viewer steps up to look at the details of the portrait their peripheral vision is inflamed by the red so as to represent my anxieties about his legislation.
The painting of a dark pot of flowers was made to accompany Pruitt to be a metaphor for mortality and more specifically that his actions may lead to a desecration of the environment. The flowers were also made to turn Pruitt’s bad faith around on myself and on the viewer. Cutting flowers is a very small act that is a part of our rituals and our lives, but it is an act of selfishness, where the beauty of the natural world is cut and killed for a very brief pleasure. I’m not saying that cutting flowers is causing that much harm to the environment – some plants thrive when you trim them back. I’m using it as symbol to talk about the other things that we do that do contribute to climate change. We can readily and easily get informed as to the impact of our actions. After we gain these bits of knowledge it is our responsibility to change our lives and not act in bad faith under the pressure of cultural norms. It is an easy act to put blame on those in power; it is much harder to admit that we’re part of the problem.
These paintings depict popular symbols and ideas that we each bring our own histories and distinct meanings to. My hope is that the paintings are used to rethink, reimagine, and converse about these ideas. Our political climate is becoming more and more polarized and I’m looking to find and develop a voice that brings us back together.