Ferrell I, 2013. Oil on canvas. 54×96 inches.
Ferrell II, 2013. Oil on canvas. 54×96 inches.
Ferrell III, 2013. Oil on canvas. 54×96 inches.
Ferrell IV, 2013. Oil on canvas. 54×96 inches.
Tiresias I, 2013. Oil on canvas. 54×96 inches.
I think I make paintings about painting. I think at heart I’m a purist. I believe in the flesh of oil paint. I believe in what Lucian Freud and Jenny Seville and Francis Bacon and Eric Fischl paint. I believe that paint is flesh and it has a life and it is sensual and real. So I paint figures. I paint flesh because I believe in the longstanding tradition of history painting and Orientalism and Rubens and the hyper-masculinity of Abstract Expressionism. I like that Abstract Expressionists think about painting as an all-encompassing visual experience that is, in some way, universal and transcendental. That’s why I make large paintings. I want to be inside my work and I want the viewer to see wholly, without any interruptions. They are abstract marks combined to make flesh.
I think my paintings are about the gaze. The fluctuating sexuality of the gazing agent is my favorite 19th century art concern. I believe in hierarchy of scale. I think Linda Nochlin knows what she’s talking about. I think I want to be more masculine and more feminine. I want agency and subtlety and I want to drink a beer and have a cigarette sometimes and it not make me seem rough around the edges.
I listen to a lot of rap music when I paint. I’m listening to rap music right now. I paint immediately, almost furiously, as if I might miss something important. I paint rhythmically in small strokes until the canvas is beaten untaught. I have problems with perfections of painting. My paint is thin; there are veils of looking and veils of understanding. I like alizarin crimson. I do not use Naples Yellow. I believe in the reds of the High Renaissance and the pudgy pinks of Rococo. I think more people should give Hello Kitty a chance, but that’s not communicating here.
I try not to think about gender, but that really means I think about gender a lot. I believe in what the feminists are doing. I would not call myself a feminist and my work is not political because my work merely asks the viewer to remember I am not talking specifically about gender. I believe in Bad Girl artists and Athena and Tiresias and Dorian Corey. Androgyny is perfection to me because it deconstructs the illusion of gender and cuts open the heart of flesh. I want paint to make beautifully articulated tangible forms. I think Plato’s dualism confused a lot of people. I hope the viewer stands in front of these five massive oil paintings showered in the tangible similarities between male and female. The androgynous mix of soft and firm, of angular and flesh-filled. This goes back to the gaze. I think Manet may be the last man who mastered this gaze. Chuck Close did a good job, too. I might also argue Warhol and I’m aware of ways Jenny Seville constructs the gaze in her series of transvestites. I am not interested in that type of gaze. I do not appreciate the judgmental. I only want to be genuine.
I think most artists paint what they have to understand. I need to understand the tangible, what I can touch, what I know is in front of me. I am working through the presence of my physical body through others. I think its possible I’ve painted myself five times. I hope that doesn’t make me a narcissist.
— Ferrell Garramone ‘13