PAINTINGS > The American __tier

The American __tier

Robert Hine and John Mack Faragher define the American Frontier as “a tale of conquest, but also one of survival, persistence, and the merging of peoples and cultures that gave birth and continuing life to America.” (1)

With the recent additions of pop culture slang words, such as ‘twerk’ and ‘selfie,’ to the Oxford Dictionary, was this the vision our early ancestors and frontier explorers had in mind as we continue the ‘conquest?’

The American __tier series explores 19th century American painting and photography in context of 21st century lexicons - Facebook status updates, tweets, texting acronyms - that permeate today’s popular culture. The process is a methodical replication of the original work, each painted by hand followed by the superimposition of large white letters, also painted, of social media jargon.

The frontier was conceived through an exchange of a few well-formed ideas communicated in person and by handwritten letters. Imagine what Lewis & Clark could have done with the internet while exploring the American west.

Technology influences how much we know and what we believe, as well as how quickly and intelligently we convey our ideas. But does how we communicate govern the value of what we communicate? The physical act of typing very fast on small devices has undeniably impacted spelling, grammar and punctuation, encouraging a degree of illiteracy that has become the new social norm. As goes our grammatical literacy, do our social and cultural literacies follow? Are we in a continuing state of the debasement of language?

But who are we to say that ‘twerk’ and ‘selfie’ are not valid forms of communication? These additions do not signify the death of the English language, but rather as a growing and evolving method of communication which changes as does our world. However, one may argue that technology and youth associated slang isolates us more, not less, and it is easy to idealize centuries-past life as a simpler, more civil, more intelligent, and ironically, more ‘connected.’ Families exploring the West would go weeks, months, or even years without instantaneous communication, while a text going from Denver to New York takes approximately a few seconds. Those century old methods of communication, intelligently and clearly, exhibit passion, courage, and connection, while today’s digital speak gives only a glimpse into the human psyche.

In any event, we live in a very different time than our Explorers did and we would appear to place our priorities in very different places: what entertains our selves versus what serves our society.

If Lewis & Clark could comment today, would they click the ‘like’ button, or post ‘wtf?’ and then go check their Miley Cyrus tweet?

- Shawn Huckins, 2014

(1) Hine, Robert V.; John Mack Faragher (2000). The American West: A New Interpretive History. Yale University Press. p. 10.

NOTE: All works are physical paintings, NOT digital and/or photoshopped images.

Michael Angelo and Emma Clara Peale: Well, Whatever.
acrylic on canvas
36 x 30 in (91 x 76 cm)
2015
Charles Pomeroy Stone: Ha! But Seriously Though
acrylic on canvas
42 x 32 in (107 x 81 cm)
2015
Cornelia Van Horn Lansdale: Play With My Hair And Call Me Baby
acrylic on canvas
36 x 32 in (91 x 81 cm)
2015
General Rufus King: Word
acrylic on canvas
16 x 12 in (41 x 30 cm)
2015
Martin Van Buren: A Sign of Frustration or Excitement
acrylic on canvas
20 x 16 in (51 x 41 cm)
2015
Unidentified Woman: Laughing Quietly To Myself
acrylic on canvas
16 x 12 in (41 x 30 cm)
2015
The Raffle: Hipsters Be Like
acrylic on canvas
42 x 52 in (107 x 132 cm)
2014
Abraham Lincoln: Whatever
acrylic on canvas
24 x 18 in (61 x 46 cm)
2015
Marshall Cottrell: Two Stepping, Fighting, And Grinding On Randoms
acrylic on canvas
40 x 32 in (102 x 81 cm)
2015
Mary Ann Garrits: Know What I'm Saying
acrylic on canvas
36 x 28 in (91 x 71 cm)
2014
Elderly Woman in Black Cape: Okay.
acrylic on canvas w/ patina varnish
16 x 12 in (41 x 30 cm)
2015
Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith: He Don't Do Fancy
acrylic on canvas
48 x 34 in (122 x 86 cm)
2014
Lincoln's Shifty Gaze
acrylic on canvas
10 x 8 in (25 x 20 cm)
2014
Captain Warren Delano: I Have No Idea
acrylic on canvas
30 x 28 in (76 x 71 cm)
2014
Unidentified Boy with Dark Suit: For Real
acrylic on canvas w/ patina varnish
16 x 12 in (41 x 30 cm)
2014
Portrait of Catherine Crouse: Like I Can't Even
acrylic on canvas
42 x 36 in (107 x 91 cm)
2014
Sunrise On The Matterhorn: Laughing Out Loud Duh.
acrylic on canvas
40 x 32 in (102 x 81 cm)
2014
At The Front: Boss
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 in (30 x 41 cm)
2014
Abraham Lincoln: What The What
acrylic on canvas
42 x 36 in (107 x 91 cm)
2014
The Trumpeter's Money Gaze
acrylic on canvas w/ patina varnish
10 x 8 in (25 x 20 cm)
2014
Watching The Cargo: Rolling On The Floor Laughing Out Loud
acrylic on canvas
40 x 48 in (102 x 122 cm)
2014
Abraham Lincoln: Swag
acrylic on canvas
24 x 18 in (61 x 46 cm)
2014
The Checker Players: Hashtag Oh My Fucking God
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 in (30 x 41 cm)
2014
A Lady: Seriously
acrylic on canvas
16 x 12 in (41 x 30 cm)
2014
The Jolly Flatboatmen: Twerking Like A Boss
acrylic on canvas
40 x 52 in (102 x 132 cm)
2013
Colonel Julius A. Andrews’ Extended What
acrylic on canvas
42 x 34 in (107 x 86 cm)
2013
Ulysses S. Grant: Hashtag Um
acrylic on canvas
30 x 28 in (76 x 71 cm)
2013
James Beard: The Fuck?
acrylic on canvas
16 x 12 in (41 x 30 cm)
2013
Abe: Hashtag Huh
acrylic on canvas
50 x 36 in (127 x 91 cm)
2013
Boatmen On The Missouri: Will Twerk For Food
acrylic on canvas
28 x 30 in (71 x 76 cm)
2013
Smith’s Mother: Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off
acrylic on canvas
28 x 24 in (71 x 61 cm)
2013
Major James S Rollins: HAHAHA AHAHAHA HAHAHA
acrylic on canvas
32 x 24 in (81 x 61 cm)
2013
Cornelius C. Kenney: Here Like
acrylic on canvas w/ patina varnish
16 x 12 in (41 x 30 cm)
2013