Forensic Painting

A painting can be a trigger for the forensic imagination that examines the nuanced and intersectional truths hidden inside. As an artist, I ask, what role do aesthetics play in the representation and interpretation of truth? I do this through an interdisciplinary research-based studio practice that synthesizes the material properties of pigment and multispectral photography.

Forensic painting is a process that merges traditional oil painting with multispectral imaging such as radiography and digital infrared. The painted layers are composed in a sequence that takes advantage of the light-sensitive qualities of pigments when interacting with extra-visible wavelengths of light. Fine art conservators use multispectral imaging to investigate the material properties of a painting and reveal how the painting was created. They do this to determine how to best treat a painting but also to determine authenticity. This process shares operative characteristics with other object and material-based forensic investigations ranging from paint analysis collected from a car collision to data retrieval on a damaged hard drive. Like these examples, painting is also a storage device, a material witness with retrievable memories, retraceable actions, emotions, and meaning.

The forensic painting process builds distinct image environments on separate layers that are exposed by forensic photography. The finished painting and corresponding photographic evidence creates an event that is reconstructed in the minds of the audience. The cognitive reconstruction encourages the viewer to look beyond the visible surface and to animate across images much like a trans-media graphic novel. This is the forensic imagination at work.

Mulitispectral imaging created in collaboration with the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Williamstown, Massachusetts.