American Hero Series
I moved from Ireland to the US in 1982 when America was at its most powerful as a
My first mature paintings from 1986 were encaustic and oil on wood.
These paintings address the dated but all-pervasive presence of role-playing, heroism,
and machismo in the US where cultural stereotyping encourages a philosophy of the
survival of the fittest to the detriment of otherness.
I painted what I saw in the Regan era; certain segments of the US population were
clearly considered disposable; I saw increasing numbers of innocent people dying from
AIDS related infections and neglect.
My encaustics show digitized prints of Rocky and other fictional US icons of role-playing,
courage, and conformity, surrounded by blobs of encaustic innocent childlike figures. On
closer observation the figures have spots simulating Kaposi Sarcoma lesions, at the
time, an indicator of late-stage AIDS infection.
The message is simple: in the late 1980s the real heroes were not those who
surrounded themselves with the flag of conformity and the resultant complacency but the
ones surviving and surrendering in the face of the ensuing neglect. Sadly too many died.
But have our fundamental attitudes really changed?
The underlying factors in this epidemic are still the same; shame and guilt and neglect.
While some of us are embarrassed to admit it, deep down we still think people deserve
to die because they are different. Some rule in some book somewhere says so?
Have we made any real progress other than developing chemicals to mask the
American Hero 1
L'Incontro Piu Esalante
Encaustic on panel
72 x 86 inches
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