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Barnaby Whitfield, Whore With Red Cheeks

31 Grand
143 Ludlow Street, between Rivington and Stanton, 212-228-0901
East Village / Lower East Side
April 22 - May 22, 2005
Reception: Friday, April 22, 7 - 10 PM
Web Site

Growing up the child of a politician and an educator in south Florida, Whitfield found himself at the age of 6 living in the master suite of a haunted Antebellum Mansion on an abandoned horse farm. The former owner, and now ghost, Norma, had succumbed to madness for the last ten years of her life. It was said she often walked to the end of the circular drive waving with undergarments fastened to the outside of her clothes. But it was inside the house that her madness truly reined, where she had stuffed her rooms with worthless discards. Whitfield’s family found the former master suite’s, pink and maroon tiled, bathroom, stuffed with lipsticks even filling the toilet bowl; permanently streaking it in the waxy reds his Mother and Father kept in memoriam.

At the age of 9, to escape the heavy sadness of the house’s hand, Whitfield began to travel the world as a singer in a touring boy choir but by the age of 14 it all had become too much for the agoraphobic synesthete. Upon his return to the house with ‘Mother off to the Psychiatric ward for Christmas’ and his parents marriage falling apart, Whitfield began drawing with his beloved chalks. Filling sheet after sheet with his Norma inspired tales Whitfield noticed how his own family seemed to be twisting towards the same fate. And so in escape he began an art career that ended at the age of 21 when Whitfield moved to Europe to be a fashion model in the footsteps of his long lost model turned Soap Opera actor brother.

Soon after Whitfield rejected the life of muse and gave into the irrational fears that barricaded him amongst piles of art history books and fashion magazines. He watched other artists come and go, some going on to mid career retrospectives, convincing himself there was something pure in the knowledge that after his death people would celebrate the rooms full of his discarded work. He created a long series celebrating these artists and other luminaries as guests to a fictional dinner party. He used his pastels to paint his mother and father, his life, and Norma whose whispers followed him still. Eventually the bitterness of his choice began permeating the work such as this show’s title piece, an unofficial portrait of Ryan McGinley about whom Whitfield states “I think it is dangerous to flatter the young. Only fascists flatter the young really.”
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