Nature/Culture Paintings by Richard Moninski
New England Series
My current work is a product of my reflections on the natural and cultural history of New England, the region where I was born and raised. Though I’ve referenced diverse time periods in the images I make, I have had a particular interest in the seventeenth century - the time of European colonization - where the interactions of Native and English cultures were complex. In my paintings and drawings I juxtapose various indigenous flora and fauna (particularly those with Native American names), portraits of seventeenth century New Englanders and stylized representations of plants taken from European decorative arts traditions such as tapestry and lace making.
Being influenced by textiles, I have often appropriated ideas of textile and surface design in furthering my conceptual goals, like the conflation of fine and applied art and the imbuing of decorative imagery with symbolic content. I paint directly on commercially printed fabrics with acrylic, incorporating and modifying the existing printed designs, which are usually camouflage patterns. I additionally make drawings in a variety of media on digital prints of scanned camouflage fabrics. The imagery in both cases ranges from more fully rendered objects to loose, gestural paint splatters and strokes. Together with the printed patterns, this diverse imagery presents multiple levels of space and form.
Why camouflage? Individual camouflage shapes are very abstract, yet the overall pattern stands as a representation of foliage. This duality of abstraction versus representation lets me play with the inclusion of elements like flat, decorative patterns as well as things rendered as three-dimensional forms. The resulting works take the original military or hunting context of the camouflage and bend it to a commentary on the meeting places of nature and culture.