Forever Now: artist’s statement

Coming soon–

FOREVER NOW: New Portraits by Andrew Fearnside

Friday March 15, 5-9pm, at OT CIRCUS: 709 Central Ave  NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

On March 15, 2019, I’ll be showing six new paintings and related works at OT Circus in downtown Albuquerque. 

Portraits are Forever Now. 

Like many artists, I’ve made and looked at portraits all my life. Unlike most artists, however, I’ve also spent thousands of hours in intimate conversations with people from all walks of life, as until recently I worked as a mental health counselor. As a counselor I meditated on a fact of being in session after session, for eight years: there is something ineffable about a person’s physical appearance—something of their soul, I believe. Something that I can’t speak. I have been and still am powerfully moved to attempt to gather a connection to this ineffable something through drawing and painting. That visible, palpable presence of the person, that ineffable something, is completely bound up in its context.  And yet we can see something of it across centuries if a portraitist was successful. Centuries.

Because portraits can do this, they’re about legacy. We can read a portrait as an attempt to control the narrative we pass on to those who follow after us—our friends, our lovers, our children, our colleagues. I love this aspect of portraits, because it’s like Ancient Greek tragedy. Portraits are also just  little image-ships sailing into a black ocean. Portraits can’t help but be this, because consciously or unconsciously, this vulnerability and hubris are a part of their history. This is something to be feared, and embraced, and released. 

In these making these images, I feel like a distant relation of the early American folk portraitist Ammi Phillipps, some of whose portraits are as alive as any by da Vinci, and whose “naive” sensibilities produced images of great impact AND great subtlety. Phillipps painted for people like my New England ancestors—NOT for the rich and highly mediated. He was mocked in his time as self-taught, which he was, and as a kind of con-man, which is open to debate. In my view he found a way to make “likenesses” for average folks that set his subjects in a context he and they understood, something that those same people could never have accessed, let alone afforded, from an Academy-trained painter of their day. 

I intend these portraits to be deeply intersubjective. They’re ways for real live people I care about to see themselves as empowered agents within our vastly hierarchical world, worthy of any and all visions of selfhood they imagine. As members of a diverse and inclusive community of Americans of conscience, we deserve depth, breadth, critical focus, and community engagement. 

These portraits are a big deal for me and for my subjects. I hope they will be seen and “used” by members of our communities all around the country. And at the same time, they’re just pictures.

These images will be followed by more, becoming as much of a survey of the world of visual arts in Albuquerque as I can assemble which I’ll propose as a show to arts institutions here and around the state. If you love the visual arts here, and have ideas about who such a survey should include, please contact me.

I’m an artist, and I make my living from my work. If you’d like a portrait of yourself or someone else, contact me. Just like Ammi Phillips, my rates are reasonable for our time and place.

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Method: making the “Good Life” images, and then illustrations for the coloring books Chimera Projects has been publishing, I’ve learned time-saving digital ways to mock up paintings, project drawings and find color combinations that work well. The “Scream” image, below, is a greatly simplified example of the process I’ve got in mind.

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Image source:

Author unknown. “Portrait of Jeanette Payne, c.1841 by Ammi Phillips,” Retrieved January 21, 2019.

Using Format