As technology has infiltrated our daily lives, so has it affected personal levels of communication. Intimate conversations take place via e-mail, dates are found in the personal ads and brides are sought out through the big business of mail order catalogs. Once a matchmaking vehicle for large populations of men living in isolation (like on the wild frontier) it today signals a different problem. These women, who abundantly fill the pages of the catalogs, are from economically depressed countries and are encouraged by the standard idealism of the American dream.
So – these women have been removed from the jam packed mail order catalogs and given physical space and scale to breathe. As I select photographs of these potential brides to paint, I don’t really consider their outcome or fate. I look for the details of the person in the image that bonds a visual connection. Sometimes it’s as simple as the tilt of the head, a flamboyant hairstyle or an obscure piece of information in the background. In an attempt to represent the diverse range of personalities present, I may select a woman who appears demure and rural or one who is provocative or scantily clad. I recently decided that my focus in painting these portraits might be an extension of my high school days of doodling eyes and faces incessantly on scrap paper, notebooks and whatever was handy. Like the history of mail order brides, things in life often come full circle.
The Brides of the Millennium portrait series shelters each portrait in the portico of a wishbone; an internal charm of fate. Other canvases represent a detailed slice of countenance with an imposed landmark image of the U.S. in an attempt to get beneath the skin. From a distance, the artificiality of the sales gimmick, and the power of the buck amuse me. Then again, it’s as ludicrous as it is offensive. The profile of a society, which treats women as commodity and attempts to market relationships (like panties from Victoria’s Secret) is the anomaly of the new millennium.
- Leslie Nemour