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Tell Me Who I Am: Identity in Contemporary Portraiture

Dainty Dame

Artwork by Ellen Gordon, Barbara Griffiths, Jana Ireijo, Sooo-z Mastropietro, Barbara Mathis, Lucy Nelson & Phyllis Sinrich. On display February 18, 2016 - March 27, 2016

Like all pictures, portraits tell a story. Paradoxically, the stories that tell the greatest truths are often fiction, the stuff of fairy tales, fables, and legends. So we ask of a portrait’s story, does it present a likeness or an inner identity? Does it depict its subject as it is or as it might be? This exhibit of contemporary portraits features the work of seven artists who are rethinking portraiture for our time.

Of all the genres, portraits depend the most on relationships, for they represent a triangle between sitter, artist, and the circumstances of the commission. The portrait artist walks a fine line, earning the subject’s confidence and trust while also seeking to reveal something fresh and not altogether expected. The third point of the triangle, the work’s circumstances of commission, further influences how the piece will be made and perceived.

The artists seen here have created portraits with originality and skill in a variety of media. Their results range from tender to surprising, clever to thought-provoking, beautiful to puzzling. In their different ways, all inspire us to think more deeply on the nature of representation and identity—or, put another way, am I who I think I am?

Tell Me Who I Am: Identity in Contemporary Portraiture