Philosophers of the Smoking Room
Vintage philosophy book, vintage photo reproduction, acrylic paint on paper and canvas
(30.5 x 30.5 cm / 22.8 x 30.5 cm)
The title of this series comes from a book published in 1908 titled “The Philosophers of the Smoking Room.” While this book pre-dates the work of the Philosophers in this series – I used the title because I found it humorous. Every person in the photos holds a cigarette or cigar – the clichéd, albeit romantic notion of a Philosopher.
The text on each piece is a quote from the writings of the Philosopher in the photo. I’ve painted over each photo, and then scratched off the paint, leaving only remnants. I’ve used another vintage philosophy book for the pages on each of these works, burning the edges – a nod to all of the smoking that’s going on - and obscuring most of the text with a thin layer of paint so the words hazily rise to the surface. Some words remain uncovered and loosely allude to the context and quotes.
Appropriating a pre-existing text and obscuring the original document serves to act as a mirror for the ideas, needs, and desires of the viewer. And is a direct nod to the writings of each of these philosophers and some of the concepts they address in their work. The hidden words act as a metaphor for the subconscious – an awareness and the thoughts that exist just under the surface, almost out of reach, barely perceptible. The “unspoken” I believe exists in us all.