Ferrell’s work examines representation and portraiture in contemporary life. By depicting his partner, queer friends and cultural figures, Ferrell’s work seeks to elevate the marginalized into a grander history and pageantry of portrait painting.
The paintings contain many elements that reference art historical traditions. Paintings of men with dogs have a long lineage from pre-historic cave paintings to Renaissance masterpieces and by presenting his contemporaries in the style of European royalty painting he has elevated their status in the contemporary world. The works also can be seen in line as a contemporary representation of the dandy, a type of styled man who has long been referenced in writing and visual arts. Charles Baudelaire defined the dandy as “one who elevates aesthetics to a living religion,” and in these works Ferrell asks the viewer to venerate the depicted men who have a personal importance to him.
Ferrell’s paintings confront the viewer head on. The subjects are painted slightly larger than life and many of the men stare directly out at the person before the work. They are confident and comfortable with their own self. Because of this ease of the subject, the paintings have an intimacy to them, the subjects are not rigid or posed, they seem to be caught in a comfortable moment of rest. They are letting the viewer into their private psyche that has not contrived been contrived as an artist’s subject.
Color is one of the most striking elements of Ferrell’s works. A saturated veil of color is applied over the whole canvas making the subjects appear as if they are in their own unique dream world. Lush landscapes, colorful gradients and intricate patterns interact to create a ‘magic reality’ that is both ordinary and extraordinary.