Orange Street galleries join the Portrait Party
‘To portray the essence of someone, do we focus on the face? The DNA? How much of the artist’s nature should be reflected in a portrait?”
Those are questions asked in the mission statement for the new collaborative group exhibit between Idea Fab Labs and Chico Art Center, and it also provides at least one possible answer: “For the purpose of ‘Portrait Revolution,’ a compelling portrait should reflect the character and inner life of both the subject and the artist.” A rather daunting challenge, but one that artists have (pardon the pun) faced throughout the history of portraiture. The two-gallery exhibit (which closes this Friday, July 27) was inspired by artist Julia Kay’s international Portrait Party collaborative project and subsequent book, Portrait Revolution, and the artists selected for this show met the challenge with a plethora of philosophical approaches, artistic techniques and modes of visual expression.
At Chico Art Center, one is greeted by Ghislaine Fremaux’s, “Erin,” a larger-than-life, full-frontal nude of a middle-aged woman, wrought in pastel and resin on paper. The image’s complementary earth tones of orange and blue, with deep shadows and expressionistic markings overlaying Fremaux’s exquisite draftswomanship, convey an abiding strength and pain-enduring calm in the woman’s facial expression and posture. The artist’s statement on the piece is as straightforward as the painting: “I mine excruciating color from their skin, disclosing it in brittle chalk with my fingers. I make them huge, because they are huge. … I put them into paper because paper is mutable and can suffer like skin can. I terminate our encounter when I fossilize them there under glossy resin.”
At the opposite end of the expressive spectrum are Glen Schofield’s two infinitely detailed ink drawings, one of Mick Jagger and one of Jack Nicholson, and my favorite, his “Three Amigos,” a group portrait of artists Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring done in ink and multimedia. Schofield’s art uses humor and graphic distortion to emphasize his perception and appreciation of his subjects’ most recognizable attributes as icons of pop culture.
Taking a different approach media-wise, but also sticking with the show’s theme of revealing aspects of both subject and artist, Vicki Tomatis’ computer-generated photo “Kirk W.” layers several images to create a colorful montage depicting, as she writes, “my son, who is a rock and roll player in several bands. His love of writing songs and vibrancy of his music is portrayed with the strong colors and variety of images.”
Joshua Olivera takes his subject from our current political climate and in his screenprint, “Shit, Tweet, Repeat,” gives us a glimpse of our president if he had been a bird painted by John James Audubon. In his statement, Olivera says the concept for the piece occurred while researching local invasive species and thinking about our current president, when he discovered the “Brown Headed Cowbird, [which] destroys or removes the eggs of another bird’s nest and replaces the eggs with its own. … [So] I made a fictitious fusion of sorts and created an Orange Headed Shit Bird, which seems to only defecate and tweet repeatedly.”
That’s just a glimpse of a few pieces at one location. The extraordinarily wide-ranging exhibit spread between the two Orange Street galleries features more than 100 works by 60-plus artists—chosen by thr three judges, Cameron Kelly from Chico Art Center and Idea Fab Labs’ Erin Banwell and Carly Santa—that form a cohesive, kaleidoscopic portrait of our infinitely varied human experience.