Hostile Witness

 
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Lad Decker

 
 

My least favorite subject is me. I’d rather talk about other complex, unsolvable subjects like national security, foreign policy, and international human conflict. Maybe it’s an avoidance strategy so I don’t have to talk about myself. But those are good solid topics to spark hours of conversation, speculation, and armchair quarterbacking. I’m unqualified to talk with authority about any of those things, however there are many moments in history where experts cited a failure of imagination as the root cause of human tragedies. I’d argue that as an artist, I am qualified to talk about the human imagination.

I was born in Oklahoma, the land of cowboys, the Dust Bowl, and the Trail of Tears—the birthplace of Woody Guthrie and American origin myths. I attended Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, a desegregated arts magnet school that bused white and black students after the Brown v. Board of Education decision and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This high school was the only building that survived the Tulsa Race Massacre, and served as a hospital and shelter for its victims. Growing up and asking questions about that history wasn’t encouraged. That’s probably what drove me to ask more questions.

I see painting as a long conversation. My painting is about the contradictions of war and the relationship of humanity to history. It allows us to look at what is gritty, beautiful, and ambiguous about that history. I try to aim my paintbrush at a space between journalism and science fiction, where machines become extensions of the humans that create them—symbols that amplify our aspirations, dreams, and fears. “Hostile Witness” is an ongoing series of paintings that investigates human conflict and duality. Tanks represent a silent creeping force that destroys everything in its path, while helicopters are used to attack and destroy as well as to rescue and protect. Painting creates space for escape, but can help us break down complexity—we can stare it down, observe it, or just sit quietly with it.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Spring / Summer 2024



Lad Decker

Lad Decker (b. 1971, Oklahoma) received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. The events that shaped her work include the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate. Her paintings, inspired by investigative journalism, explore the complexities of war and human conflict, and sit somewhere between reportage and science fiction.



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