Chris Vena Biography
Artist Statement: The two years leading up to the 2016 US presidential election were the most volatile in more than half a century. Arizona in particular continues to be a locus of unrest and a staging ground for conflict among people, ideologies and institutions. As such, Arizona is a microcosm of the entire nation. My most recent body of work consists of painting supplemented by print, video and photography documenting the experience of individuals and groups engaged in the act of resistance in this state, as well as my experience among them. Painting has served as a means of documentation, comment and appraisal of political unrest since ancient times. I see my work as an extension of that tradition. Documentation, artistic rather than strictly journalistic, of the emotional effect on individuals embroiled in these struggles is my primary concern. The contentious political climate of Arizona has left me with a wealth of reference material to work with since my arrival in this state four years ago. My resources have been the numerous rallies, protests vigils, and marches I’ve attended with supporters and detractors across the political spectrum over the last few years. I have attempted to do justice to the individuals and scenarios I’ve depicted, but my personal viewpoint, whether passionate or ambivalent, remains present throughout. As much as I have tried to maintain journalistic objectivity, participation in and observation of these events has changed me and affected how I approach the material. The subject of my work remains the experience of protest participants, but my interpretation of their experience is by no means completely objective. I have come to see this body of work as editorial rather than strictly journalistic. As such, I have made formal and stylistic choices that vary widely depending on my experience of and reaction to the events depicted as they occurred. As a painter rather than a journalist, I am free to interpret the material I have collected as I see fit. The result is something more akin to biopic, reenactment, or docudrama than strict documentary; A ‘lie that makes us realize the truth’ as Picasso once said.
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