Your senior yearbook picture: perhaps the last time you can present yourself to the world just as you want to be. You address the camera—and, by extension, your classmates, your parents and maybe your teachers, if you’re thinking about academics at all. Mostly you’re thinking about you, the purest, most “you” you. The one that will stay on that page forever, a Dorian Gray who will always remind you of what you had hoped to be at that most hopeful stage of your life.
Artist Brian McNearney ’04 selected the images for his paintings from the 1969 John F. Kennedy Catholic High School (in St. Louis) yearbook. He knows none of the subjects.
“I have always been interested in yearbook photography; and in particular, I have always enjoyed elaborating on the immediate judgments that people make about individuals based on their appearance while looking through a yearbook. So based solely on looks, I picked out pairs of students who seemed to make the best couple possibilities in this particular class. I wanted my representations of these photographs to be immediately recognizable as yearbook photos; at the same time, since individual parts of a whole were being taken out of context and elaborated on, I also wanted each image individually to be more striking and textured than the dulled black and white of the originals. To get the look that I thought worked best for their transcription to canvas, I built up layers of complementary acrylic colors, then painted the entire canvas black. The images were then cut into the paint, using woodcutting tools and paint-stripper.”