Kim Alsbrooks (previously) began painting historical portraits on crushed cans in 2004 while living in the South. The series “My White Trash Family” was born out of the frustration of prevailing ideologies of class distinction, ideas she decided to challenge by placing portraits of the past onto everyman’s consumerist leftovers. These paintings are typically depicted straight from 17th to 18th centuries, and tend to match the material environment they are placed upon (either through color choice, content, or both).
For each painting a gesso layer is applied first, followed by a drawn image in graphite, and finally oil paint and varnish. Alsbrooks only uses detritus she finds on the streets, faithfully sticking to cans that have already been trampled and crushed flat. Difficulty comes in finding the perfect cans, as they must be free of wrinkles that would impede upon on the paintings she places within the center of each surface.
Alsbrooks estimates that she has painted more than 700 of these portraits over the last 11 years, and the series will culminate with an exhibition at the Racine Art Museum in September of this year alongside jewelry maker Nikki Coupee. Alsbrooks often elaborates on the background of the portraits she paints, descriptions behind the portraits’ selection can be found on her blog here.