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Rebecca Bird

November 13 – December 16, 2019
Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

This series of paintings started from a phone pic I took when passing a group of young women posing for a photo in the city.  Maybe they were on vacation, maybe it was a fashion shoot.  They were arm in arm, modeling friendship and belonging for the camera.  I was walking behind them, trying to pass on the sidewalk. 


Later my casual photo struck me- I was drawn to and repulsed by the group dynamic.  It gave me a feeling of looking at something from the outside, so powerful and familiar that I wanted to take it apart and examine it.  An image, a photograph, always places us outside of what is being seen.  Anyone looking at this image is excluded from it, perhaps even the people pictured.  I wondered what this could tell me about beauty, identity and images.  Belonging seemed like a set of clothes to put on, or a surface that can only be appraised from the outside.


I began painting women and girls in groups, posing for photos or enacting togetherness.  They seem to be engaged with some activity, their attention is directed but we cannot see toward what.  It suggests a coven, a conspiracy, a clique.  Contemporary, accessorized young women, backs turned, enclosed in a circle of belonging and looking toward a vanishing point that is hidden from view.   


Among the trappings that distinguish these characters, backpacks and phones took on symbolic meaning.  To me, the materiality of painting always reflects the body that produces it.  The backpacks and purses contain that sense of weight, that our personalities are inextricable from our physical bodies, the particularity and burden of having bodies.  The phones represent the production of images, the ethereal and transient.


In turning a casual moment shot on a phone into a painting, there is a tension between the instantaneous or disposable and arts aspiration toward timelessness.  The spattered paint suggests stone, as if the figures are carved from marble.  At the same time, they are transparent, the canvas shows through the figures while the background is more solidly painted, as if the figures were the negative space rather than the subject.  While painting I referred to Tiepolo’s ceiling frescos, the floating gods and heroes of the Villa Baglioni.  They glow like apparitions.



Rebecca Bird

October 2019

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