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May 27, 2015

Philly artist makes historical portraits out of trash

Kim Alsbrooks expands on "My White Trash Family"

Artists Portraits
052715_alsbrooks Kim Alsbrooks/for PhillyVoice

Abraham Lincoln on a Pabst Blue Ribbon can.

Certain historical identities have assumed a level of importance that commands automatic recognition, despite the emergence of broader perspectives about why particular individuals ever came to be regarded with such high repute.

Philly-based artist Kim Alsbrooks was inspired by her friend, a women's history professor, to think about such historical biases and the kinds of fallacies they can create in the popular imagination. In thinking about the problem of grand narratives, Alsbrooks' decided to juxtapose historical figures, once painted in watercolor on ivory, with some of the more disposable items out there: squashed beer and soda cans.

The resulting project, called "My White Trash Family," has been in existence since 2004. Alsbrooks explains on her blog that she only uses cans that have been found flattened and tends to focus on figures from the 17th and 18th centuries, such as General Jefferson Davis and Lorraine Divine. There are plenty of names and faces on the blog that most of us wouldn't recognize, but it's that much better when you reach Abe Lincoln in profile with a clean shaven face on a PBR can.

She had the following to say about the Lincoln can, taking a chance to reflect on what her project communicates.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." Here is a man, our 16th president, who seems to speak for all times. In referencing this great man for my white trash family I can only say, he is also a hero for all times and all people and lends the air of inclusiveness and equanimity that I prefer to promote with this series because where this series errs the most is from the side of being judgmental and I think being judgmental is a drag. A reality sandwich which for me, comes along with understanding southerners and southern society is that even though some people become more important socially, that is simply a construct and more truthfully, we are all related. And nothing matters more than you think it does."

To create her signature style, Alsbrooks draws the images in graphite, paints them in oils, and varnishes them.

Check out more of Alsbrooks' work at her blog.