2014 - Present
2013 - Present
The Laughing Women project began with the idea of pure mirth. The ambiguities of laughter absent from its social contexts—the seeming aggression of teeth bared, microexpressions  captured or neglected—all gave appealing dimensions of complexity to the creation of a static image.
When a painting is effective, its contemplation creates an experience outside of time - a nonlinear temporal moment in an otherwise static field. Biologically, during moments of laughter and contemplation mirror neurons  become active in the human brain. Could I achieve a hand-made image that could trigger mirror neuron activity -- an image believable enough to create a visceral feeling in the viewer?
During my previous studies for PHARMA (a series confronting the then-unpublicized opiate epidemic in the USA) the biological cascade of laughter  became a healthful mirror to the documented cascade of dependence and addiction  within the human organism—and by extension that larger organism, human society.
In this way, women's laughter became a talisman against the dark.
The treatment and status of female-identified demographics are an easy metric for the values of the society in which they live: like an indicator species in an ecosphere, this hidden knowledge tells us about the overall health of a political and social system. Women make up roughly half the global population , and yet worldwide this parity in population does not bring commensurate parity in treatment by those in positions of power and authority.
Women's laughter, in this context, becomes a proxy for hope.
In July of 2014, a full year after I began this series, the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Bülent Arinç, went on the record with the following:
"A woman should be chaste.
She should know the difference between public and private.
She should not laugh in public."
Laughter is itself a power position. Its politicality is necessarily implied. Such moments of emphasis reify the nature of the work, as this sentiment echoes familiar rhetoric regarding who is allowed to inhabit public spaces. Our culture is littered with such examples, a call and response across the corridor of time. As recently as 2017, Desiree Fairooz was arrested for laughing during the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing.
Women's laughter, in this way, becomes resistance.
The first question asked of me with this work has often been: "What is she laughing at?" The question has come exclusively from men. Oddly, as of this writing, it has not presented itself in any other gender.
This project is ongoing.
1. Constants Across Cultures In The Face & Emotion, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. 1971, Vol 17, No. 2, 124-129.
2. Universal Connection through Art: Role of Mirror Neurons in Art Production and Reception. Behav Sci (Basel). 2017 Jun; 7(2): 29. Published online 2017 May 5.
3. Neuroendocrine and Stress Hormone Changes During Mirthful Laughter. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences Volume 298, Issue 6, December 1989, Pages 390-396.
4. The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment. Thomas R. Kosten, M.D. and Tony P. George, M.D. Sci Pract Perspect. 2002 Jul; 1(1): 13–20.
5. Women make up 49.6% of the global population. 2017, The World Bank
Woman faces up to a year in prison for laughing during Jeff Sessions hearing
Christopher Mele, Boston Globe
Turkish deputy prime minister says women should not laugh out loud
Agence France-Presse in Istanbul, The Guardian
Turkish Women Defy Deputy PM with Laughter
Constanze Letsch, The Guardian
Fair Play: More Equal Laws Boost Female Labor Force Participation
Christian Gonzales, Sonali Jain-Chandra, Kalpana Kochhar and Monique Newiak, IMF
The Mind's Mirror: A new type of neuron--called a mirror neuron--could help explain how we learn through mimicry and why we empathize with others.
Lea Winerman, American Psychological Association
Empowering Women Is Smart Economics
Ana Revenga and Sudhir Shetty, IMF
2014 - 2017
[digital paintings made with scanned brush strokes]
The work for NEEDLES series was made during an extended period of severe illness, during which the surreal and absurd facets of medical discovery became obvious.
2013 - Present
SCREEN began as a visual meditation on dark patterns and traps in nascent technology. This series is under development.
1. Dark Patterns: User Interfaces Designed to Trick People. DarkPatterns.Org.
2. Trolls just want to have fun. Erin E. Buckels, Paul D. Trapnell, Delroy L. Paulhus. Personality & Individual Differences Journal.
"Vestibular migraine is considered to be the second most common cause of vertigo and the most common cause of spontaneous episodic vertigo. The duration of attacks varies from seconds to days, usually lasting minutes to hours, and they mostly occur independently of headaches."
-- Ther Adv Neurol Disord. 2011 May; 4(3): 183–191.
2012 - 2017
Doctors can appear to be given a similar confidence with bodies as that which holy men are given with an immortal soul. Because and in spite of this: the leading cause of accidental death  in the USA is drug overdose .
"WE SEEDED THE POPULATION WITH OPIATES."
Roger DuPont, American drug czar under Presidents Nixon and Ford3
The mechanisms of pain  are themselves not comprehensively understood, and both the over-prescription of opiates and its backlash -- under-prescription -- have become widespread in the USA.
Extant dependencies are then popularly regarded as moral failings [5, 6] rather than symptoms of systemic societal neglect or, as it occurs in many cases, the manifestation of unmitigated learning or developmental disorder. 
Only when drug cartels began to push fentanyl (a drug 500 times more potent than heroin) in white neighborhoods  did public discourse begin to acknowledge that Americans are experiencing a health crisis, not a moral one. [9,10] The opiate epidemic is the product of drug policies which singled out Black communities, right up until white communities began to have the same problems — then, with no remaining options to preserve the spectre of white purity and in the face of overwhelming research, the narrative was medicalized.
This project was abbreviated: limited studies were made, and ER de Grey soon found they were falling ill with the ailment which inspired the NEEDLES series.
1. Opoioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures. American Society of Addiction Medicine.
2. About The Epidemic. US Department of Health & Services.
3. Drug Dealers Aren't to Blame for the Heroin Boom. Doctors Are.Graeme Wood. New Republic. March 19, 2014
4. Mechanisms of Pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Vol. 98 No. 21. Cheryl L. Stucky, 11845–11846
5. The stigmatization of problem drug users: A narrative literature review. Charlie Lloyd. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. Volume 20, 2013 - Issue 2.Published online: 29 Nov 2012
6. Stigma, social inequality and alcohol and drug use. Robin Room. Drug and Alcohol Review. Volume 24, 2005 - Issue 2. Published online: 12 Jul 2009
7. Drug Addiction as a Developmental Disorder. John O'Neil. New York Times. June 24, 2003.
8. The Addicts Next Door: West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the country. Locals are fighting to save their neighbors—and their towns—from destruction. Margaret Talbot. The New Yorker, June 5 & 12, 2017 Issue
9. Turning the tide or riptide? The changing opioid epidemic. Stefan G. Kertesz. Substance Abuse. Posted online 18 Nov 2016
10. The Junkie and the Addict: The Moral War on Drugs. Jay Gopalan. Harvard Political Review. February 27, 2017.
Is Addiction A Learning Disorder?
Dana Goldstein. Slate. Education, Getting Schooled. April 4 2016
The Addictive Personality Isn't What You Think It Is.
Maia Szalavitz. Behavior & Society, Scientific American. April 5, 2016
Drawing practice, concept sketches, random one-offs, materials experiments, studio snapshots...