Years ago I saw a book of black and white crime photographs from the 1940’s. It completely captivated me. The characters and crime scenes were glimpses into the history of human interaction. The most intriguing of these images for me, were the mug shots. Portraits of people who had just been caught. Despair, frustration, anger – so many expressions could be read on the faces. Each one of these images contained a story. Often times the real story has been lost, but once I see the face it’s almost impossible not to wonder how this person ended up in front of a police photographer’s camera. As a child I remember seeing mug shots for the first time at the post office. There was a bulletin board where “Wanted” posters were displayed. They were scary looking people and they were out there.
History has always fascinated me. The majority of the images I base my paintings on are from the 1890’s through 1950’s. I find them in books, collect them from the Washington State Archives and people send them to me. I try to bring new life to these practically discarded portraits of personal and criminal history. Painting them on an everyday, disposable item gives new life to the bag as well. I would like to get people thinking about the past, their present, and how we all affect both.
Originally I began using charcoal and white conte´ crayon on paper bag. The way the wrinkles, folds and texture added to the piece really appealed to me. In 1999 I painted my first four mug shots in acrylic on paper bag with a limited palette of five colors each. I felt like I was on to something and wanted to continue this ongoing color experiment. Paper bag has been my main substrate ever since.