Chris Pugliese got here today, and through all the insanity of installing we managed to have a moment to sit down and ask him some questions about his works in “Fur & Feathers”.
Hope you enjoy!
1. Your use of “nonconventional models” as subjects of aesthetically classical oil paintings draw attention to the ways in which style and subject matter interact to relay a specific message to the viewer. How has this combination of nonconventional and conventional elements developed in relation to one another to celebrate or critique what you call “nonconformity in contemporary America?”
I am interested in making paintings of people in our time. I look for individuals who through their appearance are not afraid to be noticed. This is what I define as nonconformist; someone who behaves and dresses differently. You risk judgment and critique. I see my painting style as not being the standard style of our age. It is a personal style for fulfillment that I pursue for my own joy rather than conforming to the standard aesthetics of paintings.
2. What inspires the subject matter you choose to portray in your paintings? In choosing models with atypical dress and character, how do you comment upon a desirable visibility in both society and in the art world?
The people I painted I met at the Burning Man festival last year. I was very inspired by their personal style and their passion for life.
3. You aim to emphasize subjects that appear rich in character; how does your classical aesthetic allow the character of your subjects to better emanate from your work?
My painting techniques allow me to go beyond simply depicting costume but attempt to emotionally portray the individual. I hope that each of the paintings transcends the outlandish costume and can be seen as a real portrait of character. The costume being the first thing to catch the eye, and draw you in.
4. In each portrait you state that you aim to express a sense of “perseverance, love, and staying true to oneself.” To depict this mantra, you portray unconventional subject matter in your work while simultaneously exposing their non-conformity to mainstream society. How do you feel this duplicity is perceived?
The friends that became the inspiration for this work inspired me because they were willing to dress in the manner that could draw attention and therefore critique a judgment of themselves. To do so, is to risk rejection with the desire to stay true to ones self. This attitude is one I can relate to as an artist whose style is not the mainstream modernist aesthetic. It takes perseverance to hold to ones ideals.
5. Your portraits seem to really connect with the viewer in relaying a sense of intimacy and privacy in which the subject appears to invite you into their own very unique and personal space. How do you create and channel this sense of intimacy in your portrayal of these subjects?
I hope my paintings do this. It is hard to say how exactly I achieve it, but my goal is to convey an emotional state. Although my technique may seem to be about verisimilitude the real aim for me of accuracy is to convey character and feeling.
6. The title of the collection “Fur and Feathers,” evokes an immediate sense of otherness, naturism, and primitivism that is often subverted within elite art circles. How do you deal with this interaction and com-modification in a way that gives agency to the subjects portrayed?
“Fur and Feathers” alludes to the aesthetic of Burning Man that is tribal, primitive, and also a bit heroic. Meaning the antithesis of minimalism. Part of what inspired me about the Burning Man was people’s willingness to express an aesthetic through a sense of tribalism or steam punk that went against the standard, modernist, stream line, and what I see as conformist in currentcontemporary art world. I see a lot of conformism when I look at the Chelsea art scene. For me art is suppose to be about creativity and risk taking, so its ironic to see so much conformism in a world that is suppose to be about creativity, but which often critiques a more baroque aesthetic. I found the Burning Man aesthetic dared to break the current fashion trend for the sake of its own enjoyment.