Tom Newby (American b. 1956)
In my artwork I challenge the precepts of valuation, permanence and personal identity embraced by contemporary culture and as reflected by art history.
In “The Ubiquitous Figure Series” appropriated images from the corporate landscape are used to reinterpret classic themes from art history. The mundane is elevated to the sublime and through this process the exalted personalities of a remote western culture are made more accessible to the contemporary audience. These paintings address themes of globalization, gender roles, exploitation, human relationships, nudity, spiritual presence, and personal identity. The minimal presentation of these iconic figures requires the art public to provide the missing detail. As a result, the work speaks more directly to both a narrative and intuitive understanding of the human condition.
In “The Post Contemporary Series” I explore the fragility of memory and the human need to both let go and hold on to the past, using painting as a medium for ruination, concealment and ultimate preservation. Much in the way the David Alfaro Siqueiros mural, American Tropical, was inadvertently saved for future generations by the act of violent censorship, revered objects are transformed by their defacement into an encapsulated legacy of their former importance. The artwork as presented represents an interim step in the process rather than a completed product. Ideally it is a collaborative experience with the art viewing public participating in both the assemblage of cherished objects and their paint spattered consecration.
In “The Missing Temple”, I explore the relationship between the viewer and the women represented in figurative art. Throughout art history the beholder has played a complicit role in the objectification of the women appearing before them. From the elevation of the idealized feminine form, to the voyeuristic glimpse of the bather, the passive subjugation of the odalisque, to the lurid assessment of the pin-up girl, the viewer has been inextricably linked to the image. Whether defined by aesthetic interpretation, artistic idealization or salacious interest this interaction is enabled by the emotional separation of the viewer from the subject.
In “No Vacancy I expose the voyeuristic nature of this relationship, challenging the viewer to personally confront the intimacy of the characters while, at the same time, being conscious of their own un-welcomed presence within the narrative.
In “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS” the exotic Turkish harem scenes of the “Odalisques” are re-examined through a contemporary lens. In this familiar environment the viewer is drawn into a personal encounter with the subject matter and is asked to address the traditionally accepted aesthetic wherein women are depicted as “objects of art”.