Huntington Portraits is a triptych created for Ghetto Fabulous, an exhibit at the Watts Towers Art Center curated by Karin Pleasant and Isabelle Lutterodt. The premise of the exhibit was to explore the slang term ‘ghetto fabulous’ in relation to it being “diffused and appropriated by non-blacks who believe that black is an exotic otherness to be consumed culturally but not engaged mentally.”
For the project, I made portraits of teenage boys I met in LA, and digitally collaged them with a composite landscape created from multiple negatives. I presented them in the manner of British full-length painted portraits from the 18th century such as those by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, on display at the Huntington Art Galleries in San Marino, CA. What intrigued me was the spatial relationships between the figure and the landscapes. I also wanted to examine the proprietary relationship between the ruling classes and the land that is an important subtext of those older paintings, and to subvert that aspect, while emulating the beauty of the paintings.
By portraying urban teenagers atop a color-saturated Los Angeles landscape, I hoped to imbue each of the three boys—Fernando, Dylan, and Jermaine—with a princely quality that came through in person, despite their teenage awkwardness and their polite accommodation of the camera.
The landscape portions of the portraits are composites of multiple photographs of the city of Los Angeles and the Angeles Crest National Forest. They are a reflection of the blend of nature and built environment that characterizes Los Angeles.