Dameon Priestly

The Messages Between Layers

By Chris Brunelle

Dameon Priestly’s work explores the subject of the female image as a sexually alluring object and advertising tool.   Priestly explores how this ties in with fine art, pop art, consumerism, religion, and sexuality.  Most of the women in his paintings look like models from fashion photography and are posed, dressed, and at times undressed in sexually suggestive ways.

Priestly’s concern with pop culture consumerism is highly evident with his series “Lady Luck” in particular his work “Get ‘Em To Go!”  This piece has three points of focus.  We see a model in a Dunkin’ Donuts T-Shirt with no pants on, a car on the highway bombarded by strip mall and fast-food signs, and a table inside a typical American diner. Below these scenes is the Norman Douglas quote, “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertising.”  Priestly sees the U.S. in large part as a nation obsessed with fast food and sex.  More in-depth cultural themes of speed, dollar value, convenience, what’s attractive, and fulfilling of ultimately the most base and fundamental desires emerge.  This opinion is scathing and honest and probably shared by many of his fellow Europeans.  In thinking about this though as an American myself, the issue really has to come down to aesthetics for Priestly as there is no culture world wide that isn’t heavily influenced and motivated by sexuality and food.  Both of these areas connect in their integral part in sustaining the species.  Sexuality is the inspiration behind procreation and nourishment is what keeps us alive.  As I write this, I realize that Priestly has done exactly what he has set out to do:  provoke, make me think, make me question, and consider things that maybe I’ve ignored before.

The series, “Malice In Wonderland” brings Priestly’s focus to religion.  The series plays like a Priestly-commissioned ad-campaign for the holy way.  Priestly’s ads bring the religious taboo of sex appeal to God’s message.  “Jesus Loves Me” starts the series with church in background, a cigarette-smoking model with one hand down the front of her boxer knickers in the foreground, and large bold text of the title covering the whole image.  At this point in history, we are well aware of the sexual misconduct that has happened under the guise of a variety of religions throughout the ages.  Priestly has taken the message of God and perverted it with sexual imagery that may seem offensive or inappropriate but ultimately addresses a reality that in this day in age is not an uncommon combination.  In a way, one could commend such an ad-campaign on its honesty regarding religion’s darkest secrets.   There’s no false advertising here.  He’s focusing attention on the things people would like to forget but really shouldn’t.  Another highlight of this series is the piece “Trust Me.”  We see a more everyday and innocent looking female this time from the shoulders up with nothing sexually suggestive about her.  Instead, she seems to be peering at a sign where God is telling her to trust him.  She looks suspicious and filled with caution.  Her expression captures Priestly’s opinion.  It’s a simple and powerful work and one of Priestly’s strongest and serves as a warning for all approaching religion to proceed with caution.

Priestly is an artist overt in his attempts to make a statement.  Each painting is a slice of social commentary that can be enjoyed for its craft alone, yet the messages are so strong and the creation so masterful that most viewers will likely be immediately drawn into their own minds as thoughts and opinions inspired from the work immediately emerge. However lofty a commentary Priestly is depicting, his message is effectively communicated.  Priestly uses the image of the female model in seemingly every painting and to the effect of social commentary and ultimately criticism.  Though his messages ring through, you have to question Priestly’s constant use of female imagery.  The line can become fine between critiquing exploitation and engaging in exploitation as on quick glance, one might find Priestly’s work to be obsessed with women as sexual objects.  His work holds many layers that reveal a deeper message at every turn.  Also, his obsession brings the artist into the paintings and we see him taking the heat in a sense.  For example, as he illustrates sexual misconduct in the Mormon faith, Priestly’s depictions are so sexual themselves that he is in a sense illustrating not only the contemptible issues in the church but possibly the contemptible quality in the id of his own imagination.  As with many things that tread the line of controversial, the result of such an experience leaves us thinking, questioning, and exploring our own beliefs.  This is one of the more noble results of art and life experience in general.  Priestly knows exactly what he’s doing and his work holds a fire that shows he’ll keep on doing just that, whether you like it or not.  I encourage you to explore Priestly’s world more at www.dameon.co.uk to see how such provocative work affects you.


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