I grew up at the intersection of mid-western, Methodist, puritanism, and sex-negative, second wave feminism.  Though my coastal contemporaries may see those two influences as irreconcilable opposites, my childhood was sheltered beneath this uniquely restrictive brand of big tent politics that sought social justice and women’s liberation by means of sexual repression and self-imposed sumptuary laws.  Sex led to the objectification/subjugation of women, ostentatious display was déclassé, capitalist consumerism led to exploitation, and drugs would rot your brain.  My youth was filled not with KISS and Madonna, but Carol King and NPR.  It was a head spinning, ideological melee combining the most restrictive elements of Feminism, Marxism, and Reaganism.  The only thing I felt sure of was that for every pleasure, someone paid the price.  This will likely always form the core of my moral being as it is too deeply ingrained for me let it go...and there is too much evidence to support it.  Yet how can one argue in favor of life devoid of beauty and pleasure?  The Dionysian impulse is an innate part of human nature, and a life devoid of pleasure has little appeal.  Even the three Abrahamic religions that preach so vigorously against pursuing worldly pleasures visualize heaven in sensual, materialistic terms.  Heaven has pearly gates and streets of gold, the martyr will be rewarded in heaven with a bevy of beautiful virgins, and those who keep God’s commandments will be rewarded with prime, oceanfront real estate and a Mediterranean climate.  But unlike the Church that touts the existence of an attainable absolute truth, absolute beauty, and absolute justice, it often seems that truth, beauty, and justice are in direct competition in this world.  Though I cannot deny that a Faberge egg is beautiful, it also represents an unjust and exploitative class structure that I cannot defend.  On the other hand, Communism, the political structure that directly sought to end that exploitative class structure, was ultimately unsuccessful, and I would hypothesize that its failure to allow for the individual pursuit of beauty and pleasure contributed to its downfall.  My ambivalence toward beauty and the fraught negotiation between justice and pleasure forms the generative impulse of my work throughout the past twenty years.  
My current work explores the evolution of gender norms, power dynamics, and representation within Western visual culture and what this implies for the negotiation between pleasure, justice, and our culturally specific discourse on beauty.  This work is inspired by my pre-teen daughters’ growing musical interests which has exposed me for the first time to the world of music videos. My daughters are primarily interested in pop divas such as Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Ariana Grande, and Katy Perry. Seeing a number of these videos, I observe that they employ an aesthetic that rests comfortably within Baroque and Rococo parameters, exhibiting chiaroscuro, ostentatious displays of wealth, over-the-top emotionalism, fantasy, self-aggrandizement, pastel color schemes, gender fluidity (a trait more Rococo than Baroque), and heaping piles of conventionally attractive young women in provocative poses.  What differs between these eras are the themes of female agency and authorship, yet the similarities between Katy Perry and Fragonard leave me feeling conflicted about our culture, my daughters’ socialization, and my own relationship as a man to this kind of imagery.  Though skeptical, I would be a hypocrite to pretend that I am completely immune to these highly produced, test marketed, pop culture contrivances.  I decided to explore my ambivalence toward this imagery and what it signifies through the current series of paintings.  We may not normally consider the genre of teen pop music videos fodder for philosophical reflection, but the fantasies they create reveal deep truths about us, and those truths deserve our conscious consideration.  To do so, I set out on a mission to master Baroque and Rococo pictorial rhetoric, believing it to be the best vehicle to explore the continuity and disjuncture between 18th and 21st century Western visual culture. I intend to create paintings that can hang side by side with old master works in a museum that, viewed at a glance, would not stand out from their neighbors, but upon further inspection would begin to reveal to the viewer those aspects of culture that have evolved, and those that have remained the same over centuries, inviting comparison, analysis, introspection, and perhaps a chuckle.