My paintings are modern-day interpretations of historical figures, seen through the lens of film and pop culture. These works are a composite of some fact, some fiction, and all largely informed by the subjective nature of time and memory.


Visual storytelling, in all its forms, brought me to work in the film industry for many years. I rely heavily on filmic influences, both aesthetically, and for their powers of visual narrative. I cast these paintings, as if roles in a film, looking for people with a corresponding 'flavor' to play the part. Research also brings me to original archival photographs and dagguerreotypes, in some cases, that become source material. These various references all get 'Frankensteined' together, to mesh eras, to create temporal layers. I'm interested in superimposing our pop cultural references and personal memory onto figures both championed by history and those forgotten.


To contextualize where my work is coming from, my earlier paintings depicted non-peopled, abandoned and forgotten places, seen through the haze of memory. These environments would show both what they areand what they were, superimposing the years of decay, upon the beauty of what once existed, simultaneously. I came to realize that it was less about the environments themselves than it was the idea of layering time that really propelled what I wanted to explore in portraiture.


Temporal layering is what my work is about. Wax, as a material, provides a visual shorthand for that filter of time and memory. It's atmospheric, organic, supple and tactile, providing a hazy ambiguity to the image. It blurs the gap between 'then' and now'. 


 © 2012 by Clarissa Shanahan. 

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