Below: The right top and
bottom examples of my
creative process, too.
Featured are preliminary
and completed works that
are from the Cautionary
I accomplish this goal through subtly altering specific fashion layouts. For each painting or drawing, I begin by creating a
three-dimensional maquette of fashion photography from a specific issue of a women’s magazine. Working with the
I create visual representations of our often complex and
ambivalent psychological relationship with the messages
about gendered identity that are disseminated through
popular culture. Having conducted extensive research on
fashion photography in the latter part of the 20th century, for
example, I’ve been particularly struck by the persistence of
one particular seductive promise: that by recognizing their
bodies as malleable objects which are always capable of
improvement, women can attain greater status and power,
and lead richer, more exciting lives. Self-advancement
comes, in other words, through self-objectification — at least
according to this enduring pop-culture myth. Our responses
to cultural myths about gendered identity are usually visceral
and subconscious. My goal is to make the myth-building work
of popular culture, and its various paradoxes and
contradictions, more visible.
maquettes allows me to communicate three-dimensional space more effectively in my paintings than I could if I were working
straight from two-dimensional magazine photos. That in turn creates a more immediate and resonant psychological
experience of the images for the viewer. In these paintings I also subtly but deliberately violate the rules of spatial harmony to
create visual dissonance where fashion photographers are so careful to create the appearance of naturalness, ease and
delight. My intent is not so much to critique the fashion industry as simply to decode some of its most potent subliminal
messaging. My work explores iconic images of idealized femininity in ways that make them playfully ironic, inviting viewers to
reflect on their own personal responses to such images.
Our responses to pop-culture iconography are highly personal and
individuated. At the same time, however, this iconography also
binds us together. It provides us, as a society, with a common visual
language for understanding what it means to be normatively female,
to be desirable, and to be worthy of respect and admiration. In this
sense, while we may often perceive ourselves as consuming
popular culture both critically and carelessly — that is to say, we
don’t take it seriously, and we are quick to recognize where the
values it transmits seem to be in conflict with our own — it
nevertheless plays an essential role in the construction of the social
fabric. Women’s magazines in particular serve as powerful
instruments of socialization; and young women who are in
the process of identity-formation tend to have a highly vexed
relationship with these magazines, at once carping about the
unrealistic beauty standards the magazines set and nevertheless
aspiring to attain those standards. Thus, while we may be inclined
to dismiss these magazines as frivolous, lacking in meaningful
content, and not worthy of serious consideration, they in fact do
deserve critical attention and consideration because of the
considerable impact they can have on both our individual and our
collective understanding of gendered identity. By pulling fashion-
magazine iconography out of its familiar milieu, where we are
encouraged to consume it passively and "for fun," my work calls
attention to the important ideological work that is being performed
by these images that are so often perceived as nothing more than
Completed work: Save Me, acrylic and ink on paper, 18" x 24", 2008. This image is a
thumbnail, click on it to view it in greater detail.
Completed work: Save Yourself, acrylic, ink, and silver leaf on paper, 18" x 24", 2008.
This image is a thumbnail, click on it to view it in greater detail.
Preliminary work: Save Yourself, color pencil and ink on paper, 18" x 24", 2008. This
image is a thumbnail, click on it to view it in greater detail.
Preliminary work: Save Me, color pencil and ink on paper, 18" x 24", 2008. This image is
a thumbnail, click on it to view it in greater detail.
Preliminary sketch based on the above maquette, 2012. This image is a thumbnail, click on it
to view it in greater detail.
Secluded Play, graphite and ink on paper, 22" x 32", 2012
Spectacle Spectacular Artist Statement:
I work in my studio everyday, and drawing in my sketchbook is an important aspect to my daily routine. It is how I know and relate to the
world. Some days I make one drawing, other days I make as many as ten. These drawings often are of my immediate surroundings, like
the landscape, or of people I know. There are too many of these drawings to post on my web site. I routinely post a sampling of these on
drawings on my blog: dawnhunterart.blogspot.com.
Aside from my sketchbook routine, I engage in long term projects that manifest as a thematic series. I am drawn to compelling subject
matter, and subjects that have a strong identity or familiarity to the masses within culture. I usually begin researching new subjects within
my art through a sense of intuition and inference. Through the creative process I like to examine, discover, reconsider, and explore. I find
that by doing so, I can expand a dialogue and sometimes, perhaps, discover new territory.
My artistic practice and aesthetic interests have been profoundly
influenced by my work as a medical illustrator for the new edition of
Human Neuroanatomy, to be published by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing in
2017, by Dr. James R. Augustine, University of South Carolina School of
Medicine. While creating illustrations for this textbook, I researched the
history of brain anatomy illustration and was particularly struck and
inspired by the drawings of Ramón y Cajal, because they possess
artistic merit and a particular type of observation.
I am creating a series of drawings and paintings titled Aesthetic
Instincts: the Intersection of Art and Science in the life of Santiago
Ramón y Cajal. This is a comprehensive biographical creative project
that, through visual art, examines and represents the life of Santiago
Ramón y Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934). Ramón y Cajal was
a Spanish scientist and the first person to demonstrate that the nervous
system was made up of individual units (neurons) that were
independent of one another but linked together at points of functional
contact called synapses. Ramón y Cajal illustrated the results of his
studies with elegant drawings of neurons that he proposed work
independently or collectively, and that each individual unit can
participate simultaneously in individual or multiple neuron functions.
Ramón y Cajal was a 1906 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
that was awarded jointly to another neuroscientist, Camillo Golgi "in
recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system,”
however, their research was mutually exclusive and embraced opposing
theses. Santiago Ramón y Cajal is considered by many to be the father
of modern neuroscience.
I have been fascinated with the combination of complements in my visual art. I have applied this to the form (color selection
and composition) and the content (opposing personalities) in my Cajal Inventory. In color theory, it is said that complements
incite maximum vividness or annihilate each other.
Ramón y Cajal’s marriage to Silveria Fañanás García is an example of a highly functional complementary pairing. Ramón y
Cajal in choosing a mate selected a woman whose character attributes were what he perceived to be a “perfect” complement
to his. In doing so, he believed that their union would be a great accomplishment or matrimonial disaster. He said publicly
many times that he would not be Ramón y Cajal if it were not for his wife and he credits her greatly with making his work and
the depth of his research possible. She incited his maximum vividness.
The Cajal Inventory celebrates Ramón y Cajal and his birthday (May Day). I am symbolically mirroring Ramón y Cajal’s
application of complementary contrast in his marital union. Therefore I elected to use (as defined by Johannes Itten) a
harmonious hexad comprised of three complementary pairs of hue from the color wheel: blue-violet and yellow-orange, red
and green, and yellow-green and red-violet. Integrated within the pageantry of images are Ramón y Cajal’s neural drawings,
May Day flowers and portraits of Ramón y Cajal; his wife, Silveria; and their children.
A selection of seven works from an earlier phase of this series are currently on view along side Ramón y Cajal's scientific
drawings at the John Porter Neuroscience Research Center of the NIH. Learn more about that exhibition here:
National Institute of Health Santiago Ramón y Cajal exhibition and symposium.
Handmade sketchbook page, Imaging Cajal's Drawings in the Margins of his Latin Books, pen, ink, and marker on paper.
Featured in the installation above are works from my Cajal Inventory. The forty five drawings are 11" x 14" each and created through
a combination of the following materials: graphite, ink, pen, and acrylic. The drawings are biographical to Ramón y Cajal, as well as
of my creative process within this project, i.e. some works are my notes from Dr. Augustine's Fundamentals of Neuroscience course
that evolved into completed drawings. The biographical portraits of Ramón y Cajal are comprised of Ramón y Cajal, his wife Silvera
and their children.
I view my new drawings and paintings as educational tools that address art, history and neuroscience. After I read his autobiography,
Recollections of My Life a part of me that felt like some key aspects of Ramón y Cajal (his humor, and how he imagined himself –
particularly in his youth) were absent from the mainstream discourse patterns about him. My artwork highlights his personality traits
and his private value system essential to his unique scientific insight that led to his great discovery: that the nervous system is
comprised of individual, independent biological units, i.e. neurons. The images here are a fusion of surreal and hyper-real portraits,
domestic scenes, and recreations of Ramón y Cajal scientific drawings. I have reconstructed his scientific drawings by studying his
actual work on display at the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD. I have also re-created some of his lost childhood drawings,
based on the description in his biography.
When I recreate his drawings, I draw the whole situation of each drawing. Shadows cast from the drawings are included as are the
boundaries created by the mats. I do this because his drawings were constructed with unconventional formats. Not only does this
approach make spending long hours researching and drawing his works more creatively interesting but more importantly, it serves to
emphasize the content and context of his research.
See How You Appear to Others, graphite, ink and pen on paper, 30" x 44", 2009
Portrait of Santiago Ramón y Cajal from handmade sketchbook, graphite and ink on paper, 5" x 13"
Cajal Inventory: Portrait of Ramón y Cajal Bathed in Goethe's
Color Theory, acrylic and ink on paper, 11" x 14"
Cajal Inventory, forty five unique 11" x 14" drawings, installation size approximately 72" x 96," graphite, ink, marker and acrylic on paper, 2016
Cajal Inventory: Study of Cajal's Retina Scientific drawing, pen and
marker on paper, 11" x 14"
Cajal Inventory: Fundamentals of Neuroscience, graphite and ink on
paper, 11" x 14"
Cajal Inventory: Silveria-head, heart and spine, graphite, ink and
acrylic on paper, 11" x 14"
Cajal Inventory: Butterflies and Spinal Cord, graphite, ink and acrylic on
paper, 11" x 14"
recent studio work about Ramón y Cajal.
Visit dawnhunterart.blogspot to see the
All of the images on this page are thumbnails, please click on the thumbnails of each work below to view a larger, full screen image.
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