Extracting the Subject: A Profile of Josh Winegar
15 Bytes, November 2015
…Winegar grabs a plastic chair from the hall so he can reach panels covering the windows into the hallway, and adjusts them to block out the light. Done, he closes the door, and switches off the overhead florescent.
An upside-down ghost of the parking lot wraps the door to the hallway, the bookshelves, the walls above the book shelf . Telephone poles—or maybe they are parking-lot lights—jut down darkly into the sky. It’s both disorienting and fantastic.
“I moved offices,” he says, holding a white panel up a few feet in front of the door, “and the lens was designed for the length of my old office, so it’s a little bit out of focus in here.”
“Oh!” he says, “there’s a car moving. That’s always… where’d it go?” A hamster-size car slips off the panel he’s using to focus his office/camera, ripples across his sweatshirt, and slides upside down along the wall toward the door. (Check out the full article at 15 Bytes.)
…somewhat by accident, he came across an image while doing a Google search that spurred what became his thesis work.
“It was a picture of a guy carrying a mountain lion that he had shot. Trudging through the snow. And it really struck me. Just as an image it was heartbreaking. There was kind of a grace to the way that the lion was draped over his shoulders that was really beautiful. And there was also the struggle of the human carrying it through the snow. Almost like a soldier carrying a wounded soldier. I found it really complicated as an image. And so I stole it. And I printed it and I painted on that.”
He shows me the image. A mountain lion floats serenely in the center of the page, its body making a graceful arc through space, paws crossed, trailing a ribbon of bandage that is wrapped around its belly. A dot of blood on its forehead. A human fist intersecting its leg.
Winegar started searching the Internet for hunting images, printing them and painting on them. Those images turned into The Still Life Series. “It brought in these ideas of violence and the way that we not only celebrate violence, but how we find it acceptable in certain situations,” he says. “This was after Abu Ghraib, and the similarities between the conventions of the hunting pictures—and then the military, those people who were basically using all the conventions of trophy-hunting pictures to pose with prisoners.”
We walk up to his office so he can show me originals. He hands me an image of a wild dog and her pup. He has painted the background white around them, and painted a long ribbon, or bandage, across the mother’s face. At first, because of the quality of paint around them, you think the animals are illustrations. Winegar says he likes how the process creates ambiguity. “It almost looks like they’re running, now,” he says of the dogs. “It doesn’t look like they’re laying on the grass with their…faces shot off… but that they’re… it kind of brings them back to life, in a way.” He has several deer, elk, a fox, a coyote. Spotted with blood, often with the ghost of their killer hovering behind. “You can still see the people through the paint in a lot of them, so their smiles are still there,” he says. By erasing the context, the context becomes the conversation. (continue…)