In a True Democracy the Many Are Obligated to the Few

By Catherine Haley Epstein
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drawing - 2013 - 41 x 53 inches

A democracy implies a system for choosing and replacing, and the active participation of people. I’m playing with this idea and the idea of the contemporary art system, which is by no stretch of the imagination a democracy. What if it could be? The contemporary artists listed start from Van Gogh and reach to present day artists such as Guy Ben-Ner and Ann Hamilton. I’ve then drawn lines over the course of several years, based on the information I learn through research and reading. The lines don’t always correspond to thematic connections, they could be drawn because they dated, they dressed windows together to make a living, or they are mothers. While contemporary theorists would balk at my exercise, I truly find art historical texts and essays to be full of opinion and fiction – a sliver of reality framed in the most aesthetic light. So I thought I would try the same.

Discussion

Mandy Williams
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I found this work very interesting, the idea of suggesting a democratic link between artists through a diverse and alternative set of connections. I followed the lines from artists that I knew to see where they would lead and could sometimes draw a conclusion as to why they were linked but I would be interested to know the actual connections that you had made. The more hidden connections appeal to me. I like the work aesthetically too, and like Rachel was also reminded of the London underground map through the intersecting lines and use of colour.

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Rachel Smith
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I really enjoyed thinking about this work, which seems to work both visually and conceptually. Initially when I saw this I was reminded of the London underground map, which then led me to think of all the people on the tube, whose paths cross on a daily basis, and the unconscious connections of those people. I am interested in the fact that you are playing with the hierarchy of those connections - theoretical connections and more basic human commonalities being depicted on the same level. I wonder about the colours and what they represent in terms of those connections and find myself simultaneously wanting and rejecting my desire for a key to the diagram.

Catherine Haley Epstein
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Thanks so much for your response to the work Rachel. I am happy to hear you are reminded of subway maps - subway maps to me are symbols of adventure and points of reference (much like these artists are in my study of art history). The colors do not correspond to anything in particular. However each and every line made has a key, a meaning and a definite connection. The key will be in the form of the book I was writing when I began the exercise. If it is ever published, I will be sure to let you know so you can satiate your curiosity. Currently this work sits as the cover of a coloring book (that is published on Amazon), the inside are the homages to all of the artists listed on the "map". Thanks again for looking;-)

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Jeffrey Spector
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I love this piece for a number of reasons: first, I don't know most of these artists so now I have a lot of research to do; second, I like the fact that the more "famous" artists do not have more connections than the others, emphasizing your focus on democracy; And third, it is simple and colorful enough to be playful, while rigid and literal enough to appeal to my analytical side.

Catherine Haley Epstein
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Thank you Jeffrey, I'm glad the work resonated with you! I have a background as a management consultant so while I am an artist, I am never very far from my spreadsheets and data lists - hence it appealing to your analytic side. I will post another piece from a series I am working on, where indeed the analysis sits right next to the chance and serendipity that is the studio. Cheers - C

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Catherine  Haley Epstein
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I am inspired by people, collective identity, public and private, yes and no, fragility, belonging and not belonging. If people understood what I said I saw in my work only, it would be lifeless. I am most happy the more people see the work differently than I do. I need the figure in my work. I respond to the abundance of imagery from the deluge of media available. I draw as a means to negotiate my position with our times. My work is prolific and varied. I tend to use a limited color palette so that information is lost in translation and replicated images are mere vestiges of themselves.

My work is an exploration of power – power within and outside, power in its implicit working through all levels of life and experience. Through exploring complex psychological states, my work strikes a balance between the very personal and the socially charged. My work is based on photographs mostly and there’s often a political undercurrent in the choice of imagery. I draw subject matter from the most banal to the most charged photojournalistic images. A portrait of Laurent Gbagbo innocuously next to a portrait of my son renders the political as defunct – power is stripped of its authority. Through making I render all things equal.

I associate mostly with the Romantic, beauty not in the sense of amorous passion (one that implies tragedy), but a beauty that sits in limbo accepting death and life, precision and imprecision. Recently I came across a philosophical discussion of the concept of Romanticism, and it seems my work really sits in these thoughts – there is beauty in the macabre, something can be sweet and violent. I liken my work more towards Delacroix’s sensibility in the sense that his approach is impulsive and violent, versus an Ingres whose approach is controlled and precise. While I admire the precise approach and waffle between the two, I sit most comfortably with the former. Like the Romantics I respect history to the utmost, though I do not venerate it. I explore it.

Artist Statement

I am inspired by people, collective identity, public and private, yes and no, fragility, belonging and not belonging. If people understood what I said I saw in my work only, it would be lifeless. I am most happy the more people see the work differently than I do. I need the figure in my work. I respond to the abundance of imagery from the deluge of media available. I draw as a means to negotiate my position with our times. My work is prolific and varied. I tend to use a limited color palette so that information is lost in translation and replicated images are mere vestiges of themselves.

My work is an exploration of power – power within and outside, power in its implicit working through all levels of life and experience. Through exploring complex psychological states, my work strikes a balance between the very personal and the socially charged. My work is based on photographs mostly and there’s often a political undercurrent in the choice of imagery. I draw subject matter from the most banal to the most charged photojournalistic images. A portrait of Laurent Gbagbo innocuously next to a portrait of my son renders the political as defunct – power is stripped of its authority. Through making I render all things equal.

I associate mostly with the Romantic, beauty not in the sense of amorous passion (one that implies tragedy), but a beauty that sits in limbo accepting death and life, precision and imprecision. Recently I came across a philosophical discussion of the concept of Romanticism, and it seems my work really sits in these thoughts – there is beauty in the macabre, something can be sweet and violent. I liken my work more towards Delacroix’s sensibility in the sense that his approach is impulsive and violent, versus an Ingres whose approach is controlled and precise. While I admire the precise approach and waffle between the two, I sit most comfortably with the former. Like the Romantics I respect history to the utmost, though I do not venerate it. I explore it.

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