My thesis project is a collection of paintings, drawings, photographs, and found materials that
work together to craft an invented mythology for the South Jersey Pine Barrens region. This invented mythos is centered around insular communities, protective hostility, and trespass.
The oils paintings in the series depict familiar pinelands locations— the woods, the local convenience store, and farms— but with a hostile figure present, usually up front in the composition and always directly confronting the viewer with their gaze. Most of the figures are human in appearance (with a surrealist twist that makes them uncanny and unnerving) and are based on people I knew growing up. They are dressed like locals of the region, unapologetically “Piney hick”. The paintings are meant to be somewhat inaccessible to people not familiar with the region, depicting things like Control Burn fires and partially obscured signs that are easily understood facts of life to locals, but confusing and maybe even frightening to outsiders.
The drawings are thirteen charcoal sketches of the Pine Barrens most famous actual myth, the Jersey Devil. I depicted him in a number of different ways, reflecting the many different ways a local legend gets told. The sketches are meant to look a little rushed or hazy, as if maybe someone did them from memory after an encounter with the creature. Like the paintings, his eyes are always towards the viewer.
I also included a selection of black and white photographs I’ve taken of my home town. These do not have any figures in them. They give the viewer a glimpse of the world that these figures are protecting. Real No Trespassing signs are also interspersed with the artwork.
The collective effect of all these parts is meant to put the viewer in the position of the “outsider”. Someone who has wandered into a space where they are not wanted. The paintings and drawings take on the empowered position. They make direct eye contact with the viewer, so that if the viewer wants to stare they must accept the painting staring back in return— far more menicinly, and with hostile intent.