David Humphrey

Artist Statement
My paintings are frequently depictions of depictions. I will copy an amateur painting, for instance, the way a band might cover a song written by someone else, or the way a singer renders an old chestnut. I try to get inside the other person's point of view to stretch my own. Sometimes the preexisting image, like an eccentrically generic landscape, will provide a location for one of my paintings. Sometimes a sad clown or beloved pet painting will provide the protagonist. My handmade renditions, though, take a lot of liberties with the originals. I will add characters or exaggerate and mutate elements. But the work will evolve from contact with the original and will carry iconographic elements, and sometimes feelings, into the finished state.

I am interested in amateur paintings for their rhetorical clarity, especially conventionally idyllic landscapes saturated with promises of harmony, beauty and a simpler life. Amateur paintings also have relic value; they have been saved, handed down and are evidence that a certain individual spent their life not painting that much. The focused determination and particular handwriting of the brush-strokes, though, can have an awkward and sometimes heartbreaking beauty. I gather my images from flea markets, antique stores and the internet. That's where I found the paintings of Dwight David Eisenhower. Like myself, he was making copies of images from Hallmark greeting cards. Can we learn anything by comparing that warrior Republican to our current Republican President? Eisenhower was instrumental in developing our highway system and an early form of the internet but his paintings are mute. My paintings treat Eisenhower's blankness pathologically. I complicate Ike's earnest competence with sexual overtones and semiotic horseplay. I play fast and loose with the historical record. Like an amateur, I screw things up in my own way.

David Humphrey
December 2005
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