Experiments in “portraiture”

In both of the images here, I was delighted to find vocabulary emerging from my obsessive copying of medieval woodcut images and cards from the Marseilles tarot deck. I enjoy the folk-art feeling of the odd proportions of these drawings, their flattened depths and the heroic California they seem to inhabit. I lost delighted hours to the emergence of the intricate textures throughout each drawing–the Caran D’Ache crayons are amazing for building color polyphonies. 

As I made these images, I listened to podcasts by errant pastor Tripp Fuller and lay historian Dan Carlin, meditating on the world of the Old Testament. I am walking through my life thinking of a quote from Henri Nouwen, in his 1981 book The Way of the Heart: Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers: “Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the sources of sinlessness.” 

What am I moved by in portraiture? Is a portrait a depiction of a character, or a “real” person? Is it even possible to “capture an essence,” or is that a Romantic fantasy? How close is a portrait to a monument, a memento mori? How close is it to a snapshot? What claims does a particular portrait make about accuracy? About the distinction between social identity and soul? 

The images here offer answers to those questions. As always, their answers are unexpected, and from the perspective of my inflation, unwelcome. Not the answers I had in mind when marveling at Goya’s Comtesse del Carpio

I’ve ordered 20 16” x 16” panels from the workshop of the illustrious Bruce Loyd. I’d been thinking of making paintings along the lines of the loose standards of portraiture used throughout the Enlightenment–small “head shots” as well as massive, 4’ x 7’ full-length “nobility” shots. With this order I’m committing to at least six months of “head shots” only.  The square format recalls the 2 1/4 film that I ran through my shite Russian copy of a Hasselblad in college, film that was used for mid-century snapshots and for countless photographic masterpieces over the decades. 

Using Format