The bread tag iconography in my work began as an ironic dig at the contemporary reading of the Biblical passage,”Not on Bread Alone”. The print that inspired the title referenced the thin line between passion and predation, consummation and consumption. Wrapped up in its high chroma, explicit imagery was a self-conscious allusion to feminism and the victimization of women, all in an attempt to appease my own chivalry complex. Initially–as the idea grew in my head from a stand-alone piece to an exhibition–the subsequent work was to harken back to the bawdy sexualized reading of the passage, in part as an attempt to discuss my own expanding, maturing understanding of a sexual relationship. However, as my relationship with my partner has progressed I find myself less interested in parading out our sex life via our prehistoric alter egos. Instead, the question continues to arise: how did our off-kilter approach to love come to be? Where did my understanding of love/romance/family begin, and how did it shape the person I have become?
The suite of mixed media prints known collectively as White Bread discusses how the relationships within my family helped “raise” me as a tough-loving individual. The pieces serve as verbose love letters to the subjects, announcing my appreciation for their presence and support. The series began as a 50th birthday gift to my father, merely a portrait paired with his dinosaur equivalent. In this way I could pay tribute while the dinosaur poked fun at our prehistoric, “Ozzie and Harriet”-like traditional family structure. In the end though, it was clear this approach did not say enough about his significance in my life. The death of my grandfather became the catalyst for examining the family as a whole. The wax became a literal symbol of the metaphorical investigation into our unique family dynamic. The bread theme returned as I discovered how much of the way I express affection and process romance is due to the crusty exchanges and quick-rising humor indicative of the marriages and sibling relationships in my clan. My grandmother—the most active person I’ve ever met–also taught me to bake, and baking bread provides an excuse to spend a quiet day with my wife at home, so a cooking allegory seems entirely appropriate to discuss the delicate balance of family and work. Serigraph elements in the prints add a colloquial narrative that explains our bonds. The bread tag acts as a symbol that we came from a common mother loaf, and our relationships remain fresh.
As the series progressed I stumbled upon a couple important discoveries. First–despite our best attempts at being creative oddballs–my kindred are outwardly generic, flavorless, and cheap; thus the White Bread moniker. The ethnic implication of the phrase is also deliberate, speaking to how our experience is at least broadly an expression of our privilege. Second, I felt quite guilty about the only surface knowledge I have of my family as people. This is most evident in the goofiness of the screen-printed framing elements. The broad, shallow iconography make it clear that I do not know my subjects all that well, that our bond is held together by blood and spotty memories. Like the bubbles formed during the bread’s rising, the same delicate framework that forms all relationships connects family. The difference is that the intricacy of the web of bubbles that connects us is denser, sturdier. If a casual acquaintance is Bunny Bread, then family can be a whole-wheat loaf made with an ancient sourdough starter. The density of these prints belies my interest in discovering more about my kin, kneading the dough and making those yeast bubbles ever more enmeshed. By the way, it should be clear both in the work and this statement that humor and mild deprecation are the hallmarks of how my family expresses affection. We come from a long line of men who sincerely believe that to grow up is to sacrifice creativity and hope. As with all my work I strive to include a youthful smirk and a sense of fun within this series.
This work is an exercise in honesty and sincerity, an attempt to ask the viewer to examine her/his own close relationships and how those bonds have helped knead oneself into a buoyant loaf. By asking viewers to plumb similar experiences I hope that we may more clearly see how a shared humanity can create a more compassionate society.