Vol. 1, No. 1, March 2005
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New York artist Joy Garnett outlines her methods as a painter who works from sampled or found images. She discusses her relationship to her sources, which have included science photographs, declassified military and news media imagery. She describes the challenges she has encountered while working with different types of source material: from technical obstacles (invisible phenomena that require lenses and other optical devices) to socio-political mediation (government secrecy and the search for declassified imagery), to legal encumbrances (accusations of “piracy” and copyright infringement regarding a sampled image). Garnett explains her sense of the continued relevance and critical potential of art in light of these challenges, specifically the uses of painting in an age of mass production and digital technology.
JOY GARNETT STUDIED PAINTING AT L’ECOLE DES BEAUX-ARTS IN PARIS AND COMPLETED HER MFA AT THE CITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK. HER THIRD SOLO EXHIBITION, "RIOT," OPENED AT DEBS & CO., NEW YORK IN JANUARY 2004, AND PRESENTED NEW PAINTINGS BASED ON NEWS PHOTOGRAPHS OF FIGURES IN STATES OF EMOTIONAL OR PHYSICAL EXTREMITY. SHE IS CURRENTLY WORKING ON A PROJECT ABOUT WAR AND GLOBAL NOMADISM CALLED "LOST HIGHWAY."
> FOLLOW THE IMAGE
I am crazy for images. I spend part of every day trolling the Web, collecting photographs and video stills. I gravitate toward scenes of political crisis, social unrest, war and disaster – images one normally sees in newspapers and on television. Because images in the media go by quickly, I feel compelled to stop them and keep them from slipping away. Once an image is isolated on my monitor I can control it; by printing it out I make it “mine,” at least for a short while. Eventually I’ll make a painting based on it. Of course, these images are hardly mine; I am just one of many potential authors. Circulating in the public domain [sic; this should read: public sphere] where they are copied, recycled and remixed for different purposes, media images are open to a variety of appropriations, uses and recontextualizations.
I tend to let my printouts sit for a while in folders. As time goes by their original context becomes difficult to remember and impossible to decipher, if one relies solely on visual evidence and memory. In this way they gradually become more generalized pictures of someone’s fear or anger, of protest or an explosion or a war. I lay my prints out on the floor, shuffle them around, crop and fold and try different things with them. The images themselves offer no resistance to this game. As I work, I become aware of an overarching “media narrative” – a loose confluence of news, advertising and entertainment, of constructed meanings, purported truths and generally held versions of events. The media narrative reinforces itself through repetition, and to some degree it influences our understanding of events as they unfold in regions remote to us. Though powerful and ubiquitous, it is subject to mitigating factors and from time to time spins out of control. We live in its thrall, by turns consuming and contributing to it, intentionally or unconsciously. My artwork taps into the media narrative in order to turn it into something else; I slow it down and rework bits of it. The resulting paintings are infused with this generalized narrative, yet they function slowly and ambiguously on some obscure, yet intimate level. I relish trafficking in the tensions that exist between these contradictory vehicles of information and expression.