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stephen linsteadt

Of Sky and Earth #40  l Stephen Linsteadt

Of Sky and Earth #40, oil on canvas, 193 x 212 cm, 2020

I had been agonizing over children in refugee camps and imagining my own carefree and safe childhood in comparison. When I think of happy children, I think of summer camp and swimming. In contrast, photographs by Richard Mosse show children in the Congo forced into military service using an infravernel film called Kodak Aerochrome. The film turns green grass into red allowing military surveillance to detect camouflaged uniforms that stand out against the contrast of the surrounding red foliage. The images literally and allegorically reveal aspects of the invisible world of the Congo Civil War, such as sexual assault, the use of child soldiers, and other human rights abuses. I replaced the children holding assault rifles with those of the inner child; the ones who are free of political tyranny and who can explore the world with joy, exploration, and hopeful expectation.

There is also an influence of the work of Trevor Paglen's "computer vision" that explores how machines might perceive humans and landscapes. I wanted to explore how AI might 'see' the red foliage of the Congo in the context of the racism, patriarchy, and social injustice that has come to characterize human civilization. Beyond that, the image developed on its own. I was not planning on including the moon or the stars. I'm always delighted when a painting presents itself like a poem with just the right amount of ambiguity and metaphor.

Copyright © 2020 Stephen Linsteadt. All rights reserved.