2003, oil on panel, 6" x 12". Copying or use of this image is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the artist. Copyright 2003, Christine L. Willcox.
The paintings in the Witness series are my way through the onslaught of visual images I am confronted with on a daily basis. I choose images that signify a particular historical moment or geographical location. I hold these events and scenes within the slow method of painting in order to consider them fully and give them some measure of importance. Through my process I create a hierarchy of experience. I can say, “this is important-this happened and I don't want to forget it.”
I want to salvage some of the images from history that have been relegated to dusty shelves in favour of newer, slicker and more colourful images. I paint these older images- often in simple black and white or limited palette-to emphasize the importance of reflecting critically upon the past, of owning and being responsible for our shared histories. Through painting, I can fend off the hopelessness and futility I feel when faced with mainstream North American culture's ever-present striving toward innovation, technology, and constant change. Painting is the way I slow things down in order to be able to study and understand them. It is also how my critical, analytical voice takes shape. Sometimes it's a way for me to be calmly in another place, like a forest, or a womb and be engulfed by a sensual experience outside of my immediate experience.
In a time when it seems the media has total control over context and presentation of information, these paintings stand against that force by presenting shifting points of view and new configurations that are shaped from the old. I conceive these paintings as individual works, but each image's meaning is contextualized in relation to the other. The paintings are not narrative but suggestive. I pair unrelated images- a squirrel and a nuclear test blast, a deer and soldiers from the Vietnam War, Siamese Twins and cloned sheep- through this working process I seek out points of connection and contradiction. I find myself selecting and painting images that are touch-points for pivotal events of the last century: nuclear testing, Vietnam, urbanization, genetic experimentation and terrorism. The addition of images from the natural world¬¬: a grove of birches, a squirrel, a cardinal, an evening winter scene- stand against the human world of technology and innovation, representing all the potential damage that can result from human striving.
I want to look at the ways representations create emotional and critical responses. I will play around with copying something that is already an image, then create from observation, then from remembrance. These varying methods of perception and representation form our collective memories and sympathies. I want to see how I might best use them to evoke the memories and sympathies of my audience.
Chris Willcox 2005
From the "Witness" Series: "Night Forest"
From the "Witness" Series: "Birches"
From the "Witness" Series: "Birder"
From the "Witness" Series: "Crash"
From the "Witness" Series: "Airplane"
From the "Witness" Series: "Bomb"
From the "Witness" series: "Twins"
From the "Witness" Series: "Highway"