Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
The work in The Company We Keep is a series of paintings and drawings that examines contemporary Southern life through interior genre scenes. In these densely packed compositions, the anxiety of living in a period of history that harkens back to the post-Civil War South continues to ravage the region through ideological, economic, and socio-political strife. The instability of these domestic interior spaces reflects the interiority of the body in a state of panic. Items that serve as signs and symbols of poverty and wealth are placed near each other to bring attention to the fact that Southern middle-class families exist in a state of constant flux between these two poles. The turmoil and frustration of living within this context is further expressed through the manipulation of the forms that construct figures and interiors in a jarring, dramatic manner that takes influence from the social caricature of postwar German expressionism. The twisting and turning of furniture such as the kitchen table, a traditional gathering place for Southern families where ideas and values are exchanged, becomes a barrier that serpentines through the composition, keeping objects of sustenance and inequity just within or out of reach. Many of the works bear close compositional relationships to merry company paintings, a subset of Dutch genre paintings from the 17th century that contained clear moralistic messages regarding excessive lifestyles. The use of classic tropes involving mirrors and characters that acknowledge the viewer blur the lines between spectator and participant, leading the viewer to question to what extent and by what parameters that they participate in the othering of individuals based on social, economic, and physical characteristics.
dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.
Palmer, James Clay Michael, "The Company We Keep: An MFA thesis Exhibition" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2179.