Suspicious Minds

Suspicious Minds is a very recent Digital Composite that combines an old, mixed media, never finished paper collage, a woman from a Ben Shahn photograph, a photograph of Andy Biersack from the musical group Black Veil Brides, and various digital effects under the title of a song sung by Elvis.
A few years ago artist trading cards became a minor fad in some circles. The idea was artists would create an image on a small business-sized card and exchange them with other artists. I’m not sure how much the idea really caught on and even at the time I thought it was a nice attempt by paper manufacturers to marketing stock paper to hobby artists in the ongoing business of wresting as much money from consumers as possible. But, in any case, I liked the general concept as collecting the work of artists can be expensive. I also liked the idea of multiple pieces containing on work so I started experimenting and created a tree with spray paint, inks, and stencils on bristol. I was pretty happy with my tree and even happier after I cut it into business card sized pieces so I decided to use the pieces as artwork on another piece of artwork. But I never really liked that collage version and I ended up not finishing it although I kept it. For … at least 3 years but possible closer to 5.
Ben Shahn’s original photograph shows a woman with a newspaper, purse and a bag in front of a store. There is a reflection of a car and people in the right side of the frame but there is so much going on behind the woman in the store’s windows that  your attention is drawn to the lone figure. The photograph is definitely weighted to the left by not only the cacophony of signs and products but also by her position to the left of the window frame. But the most compelling feature of Shahn’s photograph, for me, was the woman’s expression. Use whatever adjective appeals: unreadable, inscrutable, ambiguous but that look could be the beginning or the ending of 15 different narratives.

suspicious-minds-v2

It was by chance that I can across the old collage but when I saw it I though of Shahn’s suspicious (wary, angry, threatening, warning, or disgusted) shopper and believed that I had found a match for a digital composite.
I photographed the collage as it was too large for my scanner and began adding different photo effects to small groups of the business card sized works. I wanted the small pieces to read as different artworks but still keep the consistency of the color palette. I also added some effects to the structural elements I had drawn a few years ago and removed parts that distracted from the current composition. I digitally colored the woman’s coat and added more photo effects after removing every part of the photograph that wasn’t her and combined the two. I had originally planned to add two young, male musicians with drastic looks. One on either side of her so she would be looking warily at one and ignoring the other, while the viewer grappled with how and why she made the presumptions she did. However, with two added figures I found the composition crowded and it overwhelmed the background at which point Biersack became the obvious choice. His downcast shy or injured look competes with the easy sexuality of the open shirt and the implied toughness of the heavy tattooing on his arms and neck. I changed his skin coloring to better match the other elements and added the orange tint to his flannel before applying another photo effect.
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