Combining the history of oil painting with the visual language of our contemporary lives, Davin Watne’s Picture the Wall is an installation of 38 paintings standing ten feet tall and spanning the width of the gallery.

The history of oil painting is steeped in the rhetoric of power. Evidenced by painters like Jacques-Louis David, who created public relations campaigns for political figures like Napoleon, and Gilbert Stuart, who painted the iconic portrait of George Washington, we can see the illusionist manipulation of oil on canvas as a means to convince publics. Drawing from this legacy, Picture the Wall employs the same visual language to interrogate how we understand our contemporary times and our social landscape through the images produced today.

With the upsurge of images being generated by photojournalists and social media outlets alike, Picture the Wall combines appropriated images, plein air observational works, and graphic representations of flags to consider contemporary methods of representing nationhood, history, and contemporary American life.

The installation collages these individual representations into an impassable wall; Watne creates a totalizing image from fragments. The combination of these fragments ultimately draws attention to the reality that each painting is an illusion, or construction, and not a transparent or unbiased viewpoint. On the opposing side of the wall, museum-style placards are attached to the backs of each painting with descriptive captions elucidating the image itself. This aspect of the installation informs the audience about the individual images while generating a fragmented essay. Davin Watne’s Picture the Wall functions as a portrait of our times and a consideration of painting’s ability to help us reflect upon our collective national experience today.

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