David J. Eichenberg: Devan & Stripes
Please explain your process.
The process that I follow when creating a piece is as follows: The first stage of any piece is the photo shoot with the model. This can last anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. I always request that my models wear their own clothing. Preferably something that they think is representative of who they are. I never dress them in costumes. During the shoot I will typically take anywhere from 75 to 300 images. After the shoot is finished I usually wait about a week or so before taking a serious look at the images. This gives my mind time to forget the details of the shoot and what I might have liked at the time. It allows me to come to the images with a clean slate and fresh eyes. It is not uncommon for me to look at a set of images and find nothing that moves me. Only to return to the same group of images a month later and be moved by several images that I previously over-looked.
The Painting Process
After selecting which image or images I am going to work from I have several prints created at exactly the same size of what I want to paint. One of the prints is used to do a graphite transfer off of onto the aluminum panels on which I paint. The others are used as my painting references. My medium of choice is oil paints. I use the aluminum panels for their rigidity and their smoothness.
There comes a time once the painting is blocked in and nearing completion that I totally step away from any photo-references. It is in this finishing stage where I use thin glazes to push and pull the lighting in my works, to help further give shape to my paintings. I avoid the photos because I want to render the light as I know it should be and I do not want to mimic the way that a lens flattens light.
Tell us about the series.
The Chair Series delves deeply into social norms that I have wanted to explore for a long time.
The series is really not about the chairs, the fabric nor the figure. The entire series is a series of portraits. About the model and his dealing with a body that is inconsistent with his gender identity. My model, Devan, is a transgender male. One that has not undergone any surgeries or hormone therapies.
This series explores the mixed feelings that a transgender person feels about their own body. It is about exploring some of the tensions that a transgender person feels between what they know they are and how society tries to categorize them, as can be seen in “Devan and Stripes” by the questioning gaze between Devan and the viewer. In “Devan and Stripes” the model is in a traditional reclining nude composition similar to numerous reclining nudes painted over the centuries. Although, Devan is not fully revealed and is positioned in a way that exemplifies the compression and pressure that he feels from social norms pertaining to his gender identification. In short the chair in this piece is symbolic of the squeeze that the sitter feels in relation to social norms and gender identity.
Yet, if the viewer is told none of the back story to this series of portraits they will only see what social norms program them to see. They will see a beautiful female composed in an erotic fashion. Which is also appropriate in a way since Devan feels that while features of his body don't coincide with his gender identity, he is not blind to the beauty of femininity and often chooses to express himself in a more feminine manner in his daily life.