Ryan Kennedy wants to know what it’s like to see through the eyes of Donald Trump, Tony Abbott, or perhaps a serial killer or two.
The Glenlyon artist is currently exhibiting his work in Ballarat’s Unicorn Lane, and it’s an exploration of his foibles and flaws.
Entirely made of self-portraits, one piece even has his eyes superimposed with the eyes of characters he considers notorious – such as the former Australian prime minister or the Republican presidential nominee – as a way of exploring his own “shady” behaviour.
His exhibition, Poor Traits, has been commissioned by the City of Ballarat to help fill the city with art alongside the Archibald Prize exhibition, which opens at the Art Gallery of Ballarat on October 14.
“I’m playing with a lot of my weaknesses and faults. I’ve had a lot of trouble spelling, ever since I was a kid. I used to be ridiculed, but now I used that in my art,” he said.
Hence the spelling of the exhibition, a pun of “portraits”.
One self-portrait shows him on a soapbox, portraying Kennedy’s tendency to pontificate.
Another piece, Liar, liar, pants on fire, shows him standing behind a pair of jeans he has soaked in gasoline and set on fire, an amusing reference to his tendency to “bend the truth or exaggerate”.
Kennedy said he was new to the concept of portraiture, so had studied it intently before embarking on his project.
“I become more interested in not just the person, but the legacy, and how how even the most likable individuals could have unlikable aspects.”
Originally from Virginia and having studied textiles in New York City for 10 years before moving to Australia, Kennedy said he and his partner chose Glenlyon as a perfect location to create art.
“Most of my work is in sculpture, and usually I do social statements, whether they’re about a broad group of society or a personal approach to things,” he said.
“The last one was a performance piece called Shed, it was not only a physical shed, but the ideas were about shedding. It was embroidered with poetry.”
He said he created poetry on textiles by placing fabric on metal, then allowing the metal to rust, creating a substance to weave or sculpt into words or forms.
Poor Traits will continue until October 24.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.