photo by Trish McGee
My paintings explore issues of race, class, and social standing through approaches to self-representation and the constructed image. Inspired by nineteenth-and twentieth-century portraiture and their precarious modes of depiction, my work deconstructs ideas of secure identity and fixed-painting techniques through subtexts of the staged, self-aware portrait. I reference contraptions, braces, or postures from early photography, that might objectify and hold a sitter in place. Exploring tensions between outward appearance and internal psyche, I consider how elements of identity can be framed and reframed as conflict beneath formality.
A related body of work involves still life “vanitas paintings” created from discarded reference photographs of self-portraits that were crumpled and tossed aside. This work evolved into painting discarded exhibition cards that featured reproductions of my self-portrait paintings. Quickly compressed, twisted, fixed, bound, doubled, hung, the discarded images become new objects often paired with functional items. The slower process of painting becomes a living record and reflection coming to terms with the initial need to discard.
I relate concepts of double consciousness to image-making and examine notions of "finish" associated with academic painting techniques. Often using indirect glazing approaches to strategically layer an image, I consider how content can exist in-between spaces and beneath the surface. Areas are concealed and revealed through layered paint, reflective light and positioning. How can slowing down consumable views of a portrait or vanitas challenge understood relationships between image, surface, and material? At the same time, how can this process reveal insights into the psychological state of the painter/painted? Ultimately, by emphasizing conflicts between inner vs outer I hope to foster new realities and ways of being understood as not black or white, wealthy or poor, but human.
Kyle Hackett (b. Still Pond, MD) earned his MFA from the LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art, and his BFA in Fine Arts, as a McNair Scholar from the University of Delaware. His paintings explore issues of race, class, and social standing through approaches to self-representation and the constructed image.
Hackett has received numerous honors and awards, including DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Fellowship and Grant, Civil Society Institute Fellowship at Vermont Studio Center Residency, The Ruth Katzman Scholarship at The League Residency, Best in Show at the 2014 Bethesda Painting Awards Exhibition, and Best in Show at the Regional Juried Biennial at Rehoboth Arts League. He was a semifinalist in the 2016 and 2019 BP Portrait Award (London), honorable mention in the 2019 Art Olympia International Open Art Competition (Tokyo) and finalist in the 2020 Prisma Art Prize 5th Edition (Rome) and finalist in the 2021 11th Biennial Alexander Rutsch Award for Painting.
Hackett’s work has been published in New American Paintings, the Washington Post, and distinguished as "Ten Memorable Paintings of 2014" in the Huffington Post. He received A Mayoral Salute for his solo exhibition and artist talk at Baltimore City Hall Gallery, "Rate of Contingency". Hackett’s work is represented by Goya Contemporary Gallery (Baltimore, MD) and notably collected by Ethan Cohen Gallery (New York), Wangechi Mutu Studio, University Museums at University of Delaware, University of Maryland, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Trawick Foundation.