The inspiration for the series came while I was living on a farm in France during a summer internship for a chemical company. After months of rural isolation, one day I was struck by how the staring cows appeared as though they were posing for a portrait. This effect was exaggerated by the variation in facial features found in this particular breed of cow. The titles for the cow portraits allude to deities from Ancient Greek Mythology, current celebrities, and everyday concerns. The varied and absurd titles point out the fact that you can never really know what a person’s character is from a picture or what they were really feeling when a portrait was taken. You can be tempted to throw out the entire practice as futile and yet there is something else that doesn’t allow you to do that. Despite realizing you may never know anything about a sitter from their portrait, there is still an emotional connection that is felt when viewing a portrait and that is real. The portraits convey a fictious emotion and context that betrays any emotion that may be genuinely felt by the viewer.
Working from photographs taken at the time, the paintings are constructed later in the studio by juxtaposing thick, impasto backgrounds surrounding figures composed of stains and thin glazes. The figures showcase the hauntingly anthropomorphic quality of the bovine faces while the backgrounds are heavily influenced by my time exploring material properties as a chemist. The disjoint nature of foreground and background reflect the interplay between the real and the unreal, an authentic emotion and a fictitious one. My exploration of emotional expression is entirely real while the emotions conveyed by the cows is imagined by the viewer.
Leaving the viewer stranded in this emotional no man’s land, the series attempts to elicit that eerie disconnect we feel in moments when a person dresses a dog in clothes, a great actor plays the role of Christ, or a cow staring at you in a field reminds you of a classical heroine.