Gary Burnley

Gary Burnley (b. St. Louis, MO; lives in Ridgefield, CT) received a BFA from Washington University, St. Louis and an MFA from Yale University, New Haven. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the U.S. and abroad, including Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; Honey Ramaka Gallery, Brooklyn; Hozhoni Foundation, Flagstaff, AZ; Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Aperture Gallery, Artist Space and Holly Solomon Gallery, all NY; Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Staten Island; and National Building Museum, Washington, D.C. as well as Salon, Florence, Italy. Burnley is the recipient of individual artist fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the State of Connecticut, the New York State Council for the Arts and the Creative Artist Public Service Program. He has been awarded public commissions by the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority and the St. Louis Bi-State Development. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, where he has held both the Burke Chair in Art and Art History and the Whittmore Chair in the Visual Arts.

Statement from the Artist:
Gary Burnley creates physical collages and stereographic devices that encourage disconnected images to merge and reconcile in the eye and mind of the viewer. Resulting in an optical rivalry that explores relationships of representation, memory and an image’s meaning through contrast, his portrait amalgamations construct unimaginable existences.

Historically, the portrait has been a frame of reference for acknowledging standards of beauty, identity and social status. It was an explicit visual demonstration of both power and prestige. One of the functions of a portrait painting was to validate and give permanence to the world it described and the persons that inhabited that world. The portrait reflects the immortality of certain ideals, characteristics and attitudes while marginalizing and suppressing the irregularities of others. Throughout history, images of black women, men and children have been largely reduced to the characterization of a stranger, unimaginable in the white man’s world. As an African American artist, my perception has been molded by the bifurcated expectations and contradictions of that unimaginable existence. The physical collages and stereographic devices I create encourage dissociated ideals of beauty and identity to merge in the eye and mind of the viewer. Resulting in the conflation of optical rivalries, the portrait amalgamations and coerced unions explore representation, meaning and memory through their contrast that imagines unimaginable occurrences.

This work was produced with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, CT Office of the Arts.