Donald Henderson

Posted in Capstone Exhibitions

My work explores the internalization of emotions expected in today’s American society. Everyone has thoughts or feelings that they can’t verbalize or express. So we lie, to ourselves to those around us and to those we love. Eventually this suppression of emotion will find a way to express itself in either a positive or a negative way. The recognition of my own inhibition of emotion came to light through my relationship with my wife. It is from this revelation that my work has evolved. My paintings are about the struggle to become more open and able to properly express emotions which I would generally suppress.

I recently applied to graduate school and was unfortunately denied. I found myself unable to work and unable to express how I was feeling. I began to revert into the stereotypical male figure that suppresses his emotions. I found myself reading the letter daily, each time getting more and more distressed. I finally decided that I was going to make this letter work for me instead of against me; I was going to bring the emotions it generated into my work. The first piece in this series, Rejection: BSU, stems from the text of the actual letter. I have chosen the key phrase that use to get me so depressed, and by using it in my work; I have turned it into one of my favorite parts of the piece.

I began to see text as an approach to beginning a dialogue with my audience. I want the viewers to have their own experience of the work but want to provide them with a framework of language on which to build that experience. For example in Euphoric, I define the emotion, in text, in the broadest sense so that the viewer and I share a common language as a path to the work. Next I implement a figure that is unresponsive to the text. He is like an expressionless statue, unfaltering and without feeling. This aspect of the work is to address the stereotypical male in today’s society. He is a landmark in the experience that I want the viewer to see.

This body of work leads me to analyze how I live. I find myself expressing feelings and thoughts more openly with those around me. The goal of my work is to create a conversation with the viewer that leads them to reflect on their own lives. I want the viewer to be able to relate to the work. Looking back, I feel a sense of deep satisfaction that I am finally able to express myself, and profound sadness that this is how our society has shaped us.

Rejection PSU by Henderson Frustrated by Henderson Empty by Henderson