My drawings are influenced by my work as an occupational therapist and my interactions with patients and their caregivers. In painting on transparent, glassine paper, I progressively layer my images to address reoccurring struggles in healthcare that are outwardly hidden or forgotten. With my grandmother as my model, I hope to convey the loss of identity that can occur as degenerative illnesses affect ones ability to complete self-care or functional movement. The underlying layers represent the obscured sense of self that attempts to overcome those difficulties.
My paintings question what makes an act heroic in the midst of daunting circumstances. By amassing hundreds of figures, I depict scenes from nature, symbolizing situations that are literally and figuratively beyond my control. Many of these situations reference my work as an occupational therapist, as I struggle to accept what I cannot change. I explore this struggle through multi-figured narratives that comprise the landscape. Some of the figures include saints and young women, who attempt to rescue those in need. Other figures resign themselves to the risks at hand by turning away or denying aid. Using animals as metaphors for strength and danger, I juxtapose layered allegories in an attempt to ask and resolve: Does it take more courage to be selfless or self-seeking? If assistance is warranted but not wanted, should it be abandoned? Is it more heroic to accept the uncontrollable or attempt change in the midst of futility? Through the dichotomous nature of the work, my intention is to provide a balanced perspective between giving and receiving, especially when caring for others.
Porterfield has exhibited both nationally and internationally at venues including the Lim Lip Museum in South Korea, the Phoenix Art Museum, the San Diego Art Institute, the Hyde Park Art Center, the Kohler Arts Center, the Dubuque Art Museum, the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, the Rockford Art Museum and the Weatherspoon Museum. Solo shows have included the Hofheimer Gallery (Chicago, Il), the Packer-Schopf Gallery (Chicago, Il), Indiana University-NW (Gary, IN), the University of Illinois (Urbana, Il) and the West Valley Art Museum (Surprise, Il). Honors include three Illinois Artist Council Grants, a City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Grant (DCASE), a Puffin Foundation Grant, and three Chicago Community Arts Assistance Program Grants. Porterfield teaches at Northeastern Illinois University and received an MFA from Arizona State University. She is represented by the Hofheimer Gallery in Chicago, Il.