States of Union and is comprised of a series of color portrait photographs of same-sex families. These photographs create an artistic record of a heretofore not widely seen family life. In these portraits I broaden the idea of family to include social units not generally recognized by society at large. “Family” in States of Union, may be as few as two individuals who are in a committed relationship and live as a social unit. These units may include pets and may have biological, fostered, or adopted children.
It is axiomatic that art has the ability to affect opinions and perceptions. States of Union has a dual objective: as it acknowledges the gay community’s struggle with self-recognition, it also acknowledges the struggle many Americans have with accepting gays as worthy of equality. The photographs that make up States of Union provide visual images that give credence to the validity of family life among the gay community by universalizing the very idea of family to be inclusive of this marginalized population.
Throughout its history, portraiture has been used to memorialize family lineage and honor family patriarchs and matriarchs. While heterosexual families have a pronounced and illustrated legacy, gay unions have not been acknowledged in the ledgers of history. Through States of Union, same-sex families will be able to claim their place in history and within the centuries-old legacy of portraiture.
The photographs that make up States of Union loosely reference historical portraits. Through gesture, lighting, size and formality, the images recall artists such as Manet, Renoir, Paxton and Sargent and pay homage to the original purpose of portraiture: the glorification of the individual and the family. By drawing upon classical images, the tropes historically used to promote heterosexual family units are re-appropriated and reinvented to serve a more expanded view of family. In so doing, the viewer recognizes something familiar about the images, including their artistic references, feeling a kinship with families that might otherwise look and feel unrecognizable.