Expressive faces populate my work, but they are not representations of particular people. I spend a lot of time riding public transportation in and around Chicago and looking at my fellow passengers. If I see a unique feature, like a nose or mouth, I try to memorize it to use later. These tronies or made-up faces are subjective composites of the people I encounter on a daily basis and the vehicles I use to express my ideas.
Much of my work is also characterized by my heavy application of paint. Most pieces have at least three or four thick layers, some with several more. My surfaces have a distressed quality, as if I left them exposed to a Chicago winter. I don’t go that far, but I do study worn and weathered objects like the bridges and train stations that are common in a large city, as well as the stop-gap measures made to repair them.
Over time it occurred to me that there is a relationship between the types of faces and the qualities of surfaces I am drawn to. Rough and wrinkled skin, layers of chipped paint, a misaligned nose, live rust; it all tells a story of struggle and loss, but also of perseverance and quiet strength. No matter how fantastical some my images appear to be, they all refer to the trials of everyday existence with as much pathos and empathy as I can muster.
Shop Evanston Made: James Deeb
In the News:
The Art of Making Art: James Deeb – Evanston RoundTable, May 16, 2022
Learn More: Interview