Graham Preston

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The Darby Kid


In June of 2012, I spent 21 days and nights illegally squatting in a studio at a university that shall not be named. I was bathing in buckets, washing laundry by hand with dishwashing detergent, eating rations of canned food, drinking too much coffee, cooking by microwave and electric kettle and sleeping on a borrowed futon, in an attempt to plan, build, guild and paint the five panels in “Our Ladies of Infamy and Grandeur.” I knew that in order to complete the body of work on time it was necessary to take up a form of survival painting, that is, sleeping only when my body found it necessary to shutdown and eating only to stop shaking or to halt the glittering specks of light in front of my eyeballs. While the paintings could have been taken further, given the time constraints, I am very pleased with the outcome. I came up with the concept for this series of paintings while reading “The Blackest Bird” by NYC author Joel Rose, and through caffeine ridden conversations with my friend and mentor, Tom Sanford, while assisting him in the painting of his “Saints of the Lower East Side.” I wanted to make paintings which held a strong correlation to the works in Tom’s mural, not only in order to pay homage to a rich and somewhat forgotten formative history of the greatest metropolis on Earth, but also to say thank you to a friend who has graciously offered me a leading stride into a world of which I am just beginning to understand. I wanted to explore the lore of our embellished history of the settling of Manhattan and also acknowledge the humanistic-pacifistic beautification held within actual happened events. The implied Iconography in the panels calls our attention to narratives which, in some cases, have been passed through time by meager sentiment found within a few sentences. As an artist, maybe just as a human in general, I can’t help but feel a strong sense of urgency surrounding my immediate circumstance and emotional well being. I find it difficult to disassociate myself from the notion that the conditions of each of our lives significantly matter, so to counteract a contradicting feeling of overwhelming smallness within the span of hard science and existence that seems to be the residual gospel of our current culture, I wanted to make small paintings which glorify small events by rather insignificant and even infamous individuals within the context of our written histories. The five paintings have a strong child book-like, even humorous illustrative quality, which employs the ability to easily digest, maybe even disregard the often violent, emotionally charged, sometimes sexual content of the paintings. There were so many wonderful little snippets of these colorful figures, that would have been totally lost through the parade of ages had Herbert Asbury not taken up the task of putting together “The Gangs Of New York” within his lifetime. I originally planned for figures like Gallus Mag, Hell Cat Maggie, Sophie Lyons and Old Mother Hubbard, etc. etc… However, halfway through the project I realized that I was actually painting about romantic intimacy and personal, introspective conflict. I found this really interesting, how something so seemingly lighthearted, something whose aesthetic value could be compared to 1990’s Sega Genesis Video game container cover art, could still end up saying so much about the person making the objects … so as result, my research led me on a path to highlight figures of beauty, violence, passion and tragedy. So, New York, here you have it, “Our Ladies of Infamy and Grandeur” are: 1.”The Pretty Hot Corn Girl” 2. “The Darby Kid” 3.”The Sunshine of Paradise Alley” 4. “Ida the Goose” and 5. “Beezy Garrity”. Cheers.
18.00" h x 24.00" w

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