I employ images of dogs to direct the viewer to my central artistic concerns. By insisting that the dog (long featured in painting in secondary pictorial roles and with an artistically marginal status) take the central position usually reserved for his owner, I intend to create a rupture within the category of figurative painting, and indeed to highlight the problematic nature of these categories in and of themselves. The humorous substitution of the dog for the human portrait questions the nature of portraiture itself. The history of dog breeding, training and coexistence with people reflects issues of race, class, and codes of behavior. At the same time, humans often directly identify with dogs. Thus, when painted alone these (self) portraits stand in not only for the human form, but also allude to our varied emotional states. When painted in groups these dogs comment on the intricacies of social interaction (both human and canine). The imposition of class on the dog is a purely human construction. The dog does not differentiate between the pure-bred and the mutt, for example, but establishes a social order by completely different methods, making evident the arbitrariness of human codes of behavior and power structures.
By incorporating the languages of both representation and abstraction in one work, the “rules” regarding the “appropriate” use of medium and language are problematized, infecting the one genre with the other. By establishing a tension between representation and abstraction and by implicitly questioning the nature of genre divisions, a flux is created between these traditionally rigidly separated categories of pictorial language. Similarly, in making the dog human, these rigid taxonomies (defined as generally as the science of classification and specifically as the system of arranging animals into natural related groups) are called into question, which, in turn challenges the systems of power they represent. By breaking with these rigid systems, these works expose and attempt to resist power structures inherent in aesthetics.