SHAQE KALAJ

Artist Statement

As a portrait artist and socially engaged artist I am interested in portraying the vulnerabilities of my subject matter and showing an inner dimension that is not always seen or revealed. I view the process of creating in two dimensions the same as the process of working in a social art form.

I use a conceptual framework that connects ideas and philosophy of aesthetics to the inner workings of the creative process. I view the creative process as making enduring connections that evolve into romantic depictions in one-on-one dialog, as in painting. I scope out perceptions through dialog, using an empathic aesthetics, and using language in the same way as I would use tone in drawing.

I seek dialog that enlightens my encounters with willing participants. This occurs in a one-on-one format that gauges the inner world of individuals. I utilize classroom and group formats to create a sphere of art as social change. I also use the world of the internet, and the field of internet marketing as a tool to involve participants beyond the scope of a local community. This is all done with a focus on building relationships of trust and engagement that is transformative. I document my encounters through video and audio, which are later used to deconstruct the dialog for various audiences. Paintings, drawings, woodcuts, prints, photography, and installations are aesthetic means to engage more deeply with my audience. The two-dimensional art forms represent the same inner path on which I lead participants dialogically. As a result they are able to access their inner world in a way that morphs their reality -- thus blending the inner life and outer life into art.

Portraiture is a metaphor that is expressed in the various art forms I use. In the Downtown Foot Project, the buildings themselves expressed a form of portraiture. It is through the dialogical process that pedestrians engage with me and my intent behind the project is revealed. It is then that they begin to view the buildings as having a story, a past, and a personality. Child Narratives, on the other hand, is video portraiture. The child portraits painted before the video documentation allow for a deeper connection as I videotape the subjects’ hands, another form of portraiture. The dialog that is captured reveals their inner world. Throughout my projects, portraiture is used as a metaphor and is a living link conceptually tying together a two-dimensional art form and a social art form.