This 19ft x 4ft porcelain and glass mosaic was commissioned by one of my earliest collectors, whom I adore. Each tile was cut by hand and assembled during my time at PF Galleries in Clawson, MI. I built this mosaic on nine separate panels so it could be transported easily from Metro Detroit to Miami, FL.
The collector needed a 2D work of art for a site-specific location. They asked for something that would endure the harsh and inhospitable weather of a hot and muggy Miami rooftop. The materials that were used were chosen for exactly that purpose, to be archival and attractive within the given environment.
They requested that the design feature elephants and other elements inspired by India. Out of numerous designs that I would have loved to produced, they chose this one, and it was a great choice. The chosen design featured a male and female figure with elephant visage standing in a colorful patterned gallery with works art adorning the walls. The works of art featured images of rural Indian farmland, a sunset over a bed of lotus flowers, and an Indian cityscape.
The wall pattern was derived from one of many patterns found on ancient Indian architecture and featured a color scheme matching that of Miami's bright and vibrant style.
PF Galleries assisted with production of the mosaic.
Dream World was a collaborative painting project where I (Craig Paul Nowak) worked with a group of students from Henry Ford Academy in Detroit, MI, to create an overall image that represented the group's collective social subconscious.
The students all chose characters that represented how they saw themselves. They then chose symbolic landscapes that represented their inner worlds. I combined their landscape images to create a hypothetical collective "Dream World" and subsequently, I painted that world on an immersive 9ftx20ft canvas for the student's characters to inhabit. After the students each painted their own characters on canvas, those paintings were then cut out and sewn to the larger landscape.
With this painting, my goal was to depict a collective portrait without depicting the people the portrait portrays. I wanted to express the idea that not all portraits are figurative, and also that not all representations of people are depictions of their faces. In many ways, I believe that an image representing the collective persona of a group of youth can, at times, be a more palpable portrayal of who they are and how they're feeling at any given time. And especially for youth, I believe this is an infinitely more engaging portrayal than a straight on depiction or portrait might be.
Manal Kadry assisted the students with their paintings and Henry Ford Academy, School of The Arts, funded its production.
Christina's World is essentially an experimental self-portrait. It was designed using intuitive decision making, and when not censored, I believe that the results of an intuited painting can convey a truer representation of an artists inner-self than they might ever hope to depict by painting a traditional self-portrait.
Our jobs as artists, is to depict ideas. More often than not, those ideas are edited for consumption. We want to express an idea or convey a narrative, and anything that might get in the way of expressing or conveying exactly that narrative, almost always gets removed. My goal with this painting was to get out of my own way. I made decisions without thinking about them. I chose the content and arranged the composition using intuition alone.
This paintinng was exhibited twice before it was eventually dismantled and altered. It featured 92 individual canvases and not all of them survived the dismantling. Before being dismantled, it was exhibited at Red Bull House of Art in 2012 and Artprize in 2014.
Christina's World was completed during a 3-month residency with Red Bull House of Art in Detroit, MI.
Le Petit Prince is a painting commission and adaptation of Diego Valezquez's painting Las Meninas. The original painting features a young princess alongside the people and things that entertained her. My painting plays on that same idea by featuring the collectors' son in place of the princess, and the collector's son's favorite television characters, cartoon characters, athletes, and pop culture references in place of the servants and animals that flanked the priness in Valezquez's painting.
In place of Valezquez, I painted myself taking a selfie because Las Meninas was considered to be the very first "selfie" ever made, long before cameras and photography ever existed. I also added the princess from Valezquez's painting to one of the framed images on the wall in order to pay homage to the original painting.
The other art on the walls features more characters inspired by the boys interests and several images inspired by the art I was making at the time. One painting features etched words and another features a series of repeated "Craig" faces in it.
The man in the doorway is a portrait of Jhonmar Castillo, the gallery owner who brokered the commission, and there are two more secrets hidden within the ceiling. One of them is a portrait of the boy's birth mother, and the other is a poem intended to be a message from the boys adopted parents. In order to emphasize that message even further, I included one more unique element to the painting, a hidden video inlay featuring the boy's fathers reading that poem aloud.
In 2007, I was one year into painting only self-portraits. It all began with a series entitled, "Who Am I?", which was comprised of 10 monotone, black and white paintings made using annual school photos as reference material. By the time Blend In / Stand Out came about, I was already struggling to convince the world that my self-portraits were not about me. I wanted everyone to understand that they were about humanity, as a whole. They were about what it means to be human with a visual presense and an inner identity. They were not traditional portraits.
I was already writing on the backgrounds of my painting and painting portraits on multiple substrates in order to express a fragmented existense. I was painting smeared paintings to express ephemerality and making hidden paintings to express social issues. I was even painting invisible paintings on walls that could only be seen when exposed to blacklight so I could literally expose my personal and professional influences to my audience.
The Blend In / Stand Out series resulted after I had said so much with self-portraits, that there was little more left to be said. So, in an attempt to discuss the nuance of identity and break apart the concept of the self, I made this exploded view of one person.
Social media was dominating lives by then. Everyone's attempts to appear as something new or different than what they might have been before was in full view. Everything about us was in the spotlight.
I began using a Jackson Pollock stylized painting method to seperate the portraits from myself (although I was still unwilling to stop painting self-portraits). I painted many paintings of the same person with the goal of making them all look different. I wanted my audience to search, to observe, to be drawn to some, and to completely miss others. Afterall, it's what we do in our every day lives. And here, my goal was to express that human dynamic.
Blend In / Stand Out was exhibited once at Nextstep Studio and Gallery before the paintings were all seperated and sold as individuals.