Shane Guffogg: Curatorial Statement
Portraiture goes back in time to the stone ages (some 30,000 plus years ago), and continues all the way through to today. Images of the human face have served as a vessel to carry ideas of who we were – and are – throughout the centuries, ranging from the idealized forms of the Sumerians and Egyptians, to the naturalized images of Greeks and Romans and back again to stylized images of the Byzantine era, only to find a new idealized form of realism in the 1400’s, now commonly known as the Renaissance.
Each style change was prompted or accompanied by a change of ideas of how the people thought about their world and their place in it. By the beginning of the 20th century, Picasso's portraits had run the full gamut of every style that had preceded him until he took his cue from the new ideas of science (relativity) and began fragmenting his images, creating multiple of views, simultaneously.
And then there is Andy Warhol and his use of photography and screen printing to replicate the mid 20th century's world of images, showing us not only how we see but how the images are made.
That leads us up to today. But one big difference between where we are now versus where we were, even 10 years ago, is that throughout history their have been trends that get coined as an “Ism” like French Impressionism. But in our technologically driven-
information age, there is no one style or idea that dominates the artistic landscape. In fact it is just the opposite because now with a click on the mouse or keypad, virtually any image from anywhere in the world is available. I like to think of the computer screen as a portal into a 4th dimension where the past and present are all there, existing simultaneously.
So what does that do to art and more to the point, portraiture? The answer, in part, is that any and all artistic styles are available to draw from. Until now, there really has not been any rules that claim what is fashionable or relevant. The main objective of portraiture, as best I can figure, is to really see ourselves – both physically and emotionally, and hopefully gain insight and understanding into what we call the Human Condition.
Portraiture is much more than capturing a likeness of someone. It goes deep into our past like an underground river, resurfacing as our future. The artists and artworks I have chosen for the Portrait exhibition at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art add to a larger picture that is both a vision of our reality and a psychological reflection of what that reality is. I admire what these artists are doing – making images- which is a tradition and form of communication that is as old as humanity itself.
Some of these artists tell stories, others imply stories, others depict a moment as fact. Some capture that moment with a gestural brushstroke that becomes a visual metaphor. In some, the colors are pushed into a seemingly different dimension. And some look like a strange scene from a film that was (maybe) never made.
They all add up to what I think of as a snapshot that is being driven by a need to understand and reflect about what it means to be human in the beginning of the 21st century.
Essays about the Artists by Shane Guffogg
(A partial list)
Doro Hoffman grew up in Stuttgart, Germany and attended art school at The Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste, Karlsruhe, Germany for her BFA followed studying under Prof. Franz Ackermann for her Masters in Fine Art (MFA).
Her painting technique is painstaking photo-realism, infused with symbols of our post-modern, capitol-driven world. She paints beauty, as in women and shiny objects, but they are more than that. She is really painting a belief system that we are all too familiar with. When we pick up a magazine and look at the glassy pages of ads, they are trying to tell us and hopefully sell us, their concept of happiness. That concept is based on the idea that if you buy their product, lets
say a purse from Gucci, you will be one of them – one of the beautiful, happy people. It is consumerism combined with marketing with a splash of religious iconography (think of the Virgin Mary with a halo, blue robe, red dress and the bluest skies) that makes us want to buy with the hope of belonging to their world. The message is, beauty equals happiness. Simple enough but oh how complicated it all is.
Doro's women, with their prefect blue hair, look out in to our world, but not necessarily at us. They are daydreaming against a backdrop of diamonds and gold, but they are disconnected from both our world and theirs. They are fallen angels that have been seduced into our belief system, trapped in a timeless state of idealized beauty.
These paintings are really portraits born out of desire, fueled by the (social) media. They are steeped in the history of European Icon paintings of the late Byzantine and early Renaissance and are as real as the images that are splashed across our TV and computer screens of today's hot celebs wearing the latest high fashion statement. We know they don't have a solution for world hunger or world peace, but we watch and listen anyway because these pop cultural icons, represent an idea that we all want to believe in – eternal beauty.
Vonn Sumner is a painter who uses photography in a similar way that Thomas Eakens did; he stages the scene he wants to paint (based on a sketch) and shoots. But Vonn also does something that Rembrandt did; he dresses people up to play out roles. Rembrandt took familiar tales, updated them to his time, added a twist including atmospheric lighting and dressed his subjects in beautiful velvet robes and gold jewelry.
Vonn’s stories are fragments of a world gone funny. His scenes allude to what is buried just below the surface of our Grande Americano world. He puts his cast into perplexing dilemmas because they are both the adult and the child. He makes the costumes and head-gear which resemble the makeshift outfits most of us made as kids to play cowboys and Indians or some other dress-up game. Vonn’s characters are just that: Characters. But which fable is he addressing?
Vonn’s paintings are from a film that plays in his mind (and ultimately ours) that beckons us to ask who are we, what are we doing and how did we get here? It is true that his paintings are portraits of real people and if you know them, you instantly recognize them. But these are psychological portraits that stretch back through art history like a kid pulling a rubber band and snapping it back to now, stinging us with Vonn’s codified realism.
I remember sometime ago watching a National Geographic program about a tribe in Africa that didn’t want the cameraman to take their picture, fearing that their soul would be stolen. Until then, I hadn’t thought of a camera or a picture as having the ability to steal the invisible energy we have labeled as soul. Laura Hipke is an artist who does think about it because she believes it. Laura is a self-taught artist with her only art school background coming from a summer course at Cal Arts when she was 16. That experience made her realize what she wanted out of art, (like the British Francis Bacon), was not something that could be taught.
Laura doesn’t paint people she knows out of fear of revealing what is hidden. Instead she chooses a photo of someone she doesn’t know, using the picture as a springboard from which to make drawings, over and over, moving past the visual image into the invisible presence that manifest through the drawings. She
pins these drawings to her studio wall, living with them over a period of time to find which ones are the most honest. That recognized moment becomes the starting point for the painting.
Out of need to find what lies just below the surface, Laura began using a technique of rubbing off what she painted and repainting, rubbing off again and repeating this method, leaving areas of color and parts of the image while also
exposing the linen or substructure from which the image now lives. It is an image that ultimately exists in the artist’s mind, in Laura’s mind, the mother of three children. I say that because I feel that her inner self, the artist self and the mothering side of her is reacting to the daily atrocities that come streaming through the news media day and night, disguised as another form of entertainment.
Laura is an artist who works free of the pre-described set of art school rules, trusting her intuition to know what colors are needed or what form the portrait will take. She paints from the inside out to capture what is really an inner landscape that reaches out to us as a contemporary portrait of our not so perfect world.
Like most artists, I started off drawing people and making portraits. In my late teens, I took my cues from Rembrandt and posed for countless self-portraits in front of a mirror, working at capturing a moment, an emotion, a flash of light. Within a couple of years of exploring the old master's styles and techniques, I moved on to Van Gogh, Picasso and Bacon, embracing the idea that paint was a visual metaphor for the physical world and color was the emotional engine to transport the viewer.
It was a few years later that realism completely gave way to abstraction, but with the old masters tools of the trade to help create a new way of seeing the invisible.
Cut to 2011 – I was delving into Leonardo's portrait titled Ginevra de Benci, using his colors and forms as an in road for having a visual conversation with the great renaissance master.
This series lasted 2 years and got me thinking yet again about portraiture. I decided to re investigate my love of painting the human face by painting profiles of my friends and family. Shortly thereafter I heard a story on NPR news one morning that Indigenous tribes and primates have a maximum number of 150 in their group and if they go beyond that the tribe splits and forms a new tribe. It went on to say that we are all hard wired with that need and most people don't
have more than 150 people in their lives that they would call a friend. I started wondering who my tribe was and what they look like. So, why not paint them, each showing just the right side in profile facing an unseen light source. One thing that I have found so interesting is that most of the people I have painted thus far don't recognize themselves when they see my painting of them because it is a POV that they don't get to see.
People are often surprised when they see these portraits in my studio, thinking of me as an “Abstract artist.” But, I like to remind visitors that my so called abstract paintings are painted realistically, showing space, light, shadows, etc. The truth is that if I was not able to paint these realistic portraits, I wouldn't be able to render the abstract paintings as real moments of time. It all goes hand in hand.
I am currently working on number 44, seven of which are included in this exhibition.
In the American art world of the 1940’s and 1950’s, the inner landscape of the Abstract Expressionism ruled the day. That changed seemingly overnight with the economic boom of the 1950’s, which transformed the American way of life from Mom-and-Pop owned stores to corporate identities. By the early 1960s there were tract houses and supermarkets that began to create a unified vision of the American dream, and this spawned a new art movement that went on to be known as Pop art.
Ed Ruscha came to Los Angeles via Oklahoma in the late 1950s. He was and is an integral part of this Pop landscape movement. His word paintings that began in the early 1960s were lifted out of the airwaves of the time and meticulously placed on canvas. The words and phrases that Ed grabs from the ethers refer to emotions and places and even people.
In the 1980s Ed turned his word paintings inside out and started his silhouette series, and like his earlier works, they hover in our minds between the conscious and subconscious, giving us the idea of a type of person who’s image has left a burn mark in our minds.
For many years, Ed has quietly been taking his painted silhouettes into a stark and confrontational direction with metal contour gauge devices. He uses this measuring device to make an accurate visual record of his subjects’ profiles when they come to sit for their portrait at his studio. But then it is the profile of the sitter’s face that creates the negative space. This instigates a push-pull between what is and is not there. Ed’s silhouetted-airbrushed image has been erased, but we still see the invisible. It’s all about the information – how it is presented and how it is received.
Don has been a portrait artist for more than 50 years and has painted artists, writers, actors, friends and strangers and does so daily. In the spring of 2016, I was invited to sit for Don. I had never “sat” for another artist and hoped I would be a good subject. I arrived at the requested time (12:30) and after a brief conversation about mutual friends, the first session began. Over the years Don has learned that two hours is the limit for most of his sitters and like a finely conditioned athlete, he has perfected his ability to start and finish a portrait within that time. I sat for 3 poses, each lasting exactly
two hours. That may not seem like a long time to sit still but when you do it for a total of 3 back-to-back sessions, the result can be staggering. As a sitter, you try to find the most comfortable position as emotions and subdued thoughts that have been pushed
aside for the safety of those who know you, come bubbling up to surface. Somehow, Don sees them. You can’t help but fade in and out of a waking dream with the sound of Don’s brush being pulled across the paper as your only grounding device in the here and now.
Joseph Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces in the 1940s. That book went on to become the inspiration for George Lucas’ Star Wars. In it Campbell explores the archetype that is the quintessential hero (and villain since everything has an opposite), who shows up throughout all cultures. Heroes are the golden thread that each generation plucks to resonate with our human story.
Paul Ruscha’s self-portrait as Kirk Douglas playing Vincent Van Gogh is a conceptualized portrait that should be added to the list of a Thousand Faces. The very idea of an artist portraying himself as an actor portraying another artist could also be the making for a TV sitcom. But this someone, Van Gogh, was an artist who explored a painterly terrain and wedded colors to emotions like lovers clinging together on a stormy night.
A lot of artists have painted self-portraits pretending to be someone else. At 18 I painted myself as Rembrandt, replacing my face for his in an attempt to call forth and capture his artistic vision. Paul chose not to paint himself as Van Gogh but as Kirk Douglas playing Van Gogh from the 1956 film Lust for Life.
Paul’s self portrait is smaller than life and painted in a sandwich of acrylic-inacetate that we have to look through to what is really the back of the painting, making this a visual metaphor for what is behind the image. He has left out the eyes – leaving two dark holes that read like a mask, but Paul can’t wear it. No window of the soul to peer into on this one. He shows us that it’s not about the
person, but the idea of the person that counts. The nose has been smashed and smeared and the head is surrounded by a cadmium red inferno. Whose inferno, Paul’s, Kirk’s or Vincent’s? Do we really want to know? Perhaps our greater need is to have our heroes be just that – our heroes. No matter how complicated and flawed.
Jeff Britton is an artist who paints directly from life. No matter where he is or what his day has been like, he paints. His paintings are a documentation of his thoughts and surroundings and he paints to understand and connect to his world.
Jeff ‘s surfaces (similar to the late paintings of Rembrandt and Lucien Freud) are but a metaphor for the physical world. His images hover between an emotional state that is created through his paint handling and the physical reality that is presented to us as a specific time and place.
Jeff draws directly with paint, often using a palette knife to begin. He spreads the paint on almost as if he were frosting a cake and draws back into the surface with the end of his brush, applying more paint with the brush to add nuances of color.
The places Britton paints are not edited, they are factual moments of where he is both physically and mentally and he does not infuse his choice of subjects with an art world spin. His approach to painting is pure and direct in every sense making his work so familiar that you forget whether or not it is your own memory.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg is best known as a guy behind the camera who has pointed it towards some amazing moments, like filming the Beatles playing live on a roof top in London. He also worked a lot with the Rolling Stones and directed the BBC classic TV show, Brideshead Revisited. That said, Michael took up painting later in life. I met MLH at a dinner party in LA that was put together so
Michael and I could meet and we immediately clicked. I did a studio visit with him the following day and was smitten by his painted characters, seemingly acting out scenes from a play or movie to which there is no written script. Theater and film are supposed to capture and explore human emotions that are often drawn out by extreme events. Michael's characters seem to have been plucked out of a time and place and put in a parallel universe that is the same as ours, but not quite. His works straddle the two worlds of art and theater, with the stylized faces that hark back to a more heroic time of the 1940s and 50s. A time when men were men and took their cocktails neat. And on the surface, all is right, but just hidden out of sight are the emotions that have manifested as his subjects, trying to reckon with a world that is seemingly there, but then again, maybe not.
I first met Xander Berkeley after seeing him in the Harold Pinter play, The Caretaker, in Los Angeles in 2002. Pinter is one of my favorite playwrights. His focus on the silence that grows between people as they try to fit into a set of rules, and understand their world is intense. There is a direct link between what he does with words and Xander’s approach to painting portraits.
Xander makes his living as an actor and like all good actors he watches and studies people in their daily routines. This includes sketching those around him. He is usually drawn to people whose faces are of an Old World type – faces with history and a story.
Xander paints with thick strokes, building up the surface and then sands down in specific areas when the paint is dry. This technique is repeated, creating an archeological quality like an ancient manuscript in the process of disintegration. The faces resonate and hover like the sound of someone’s voice we hear only in our head. It is a voice from a dark moment in human history that echoes into the
Xander has taken away the event, zooms in for a close look at the faces of people in their most fragile and intimate moments. They are like characters from a Pinter play that reach the end of a thought and are faced with an insurmountable need to try and explain why we as humans do what humans do.
Deborah Martin is an American painter and independent curator
based in Southern California. Her artistic work examines the
complexities of individual experience particularly in relation to home,
isolation and memory.
Her latest body of work seeks to create a platform for social awareness while opening up a discussion about available support systems and funding for both children and adults diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The oil portraits in this series follow families who are currently caring for a child or adult with ASD. The focus of this new body of work is to provide a public connection and “face” to bring awareness to the many challenges as well as successes in caring for both children and adults with autism.
A fundamental shift to Medicaid would have far-reaching consequences for people with disabilities, affecting the availability of everything from health care to home and community-based services. The fiscal sustainability of Medicaid is essential to making sure that those who depend on the program can know it will be there for them in the future.
For many families raising a child on the autistic spectrum there is a
persistent fear and concern for their child’s future. This becomes
increasingly disconcerting as parents begin to look at the reality of
what may happen when they are no longer alive or become incapable of caring for them. Small children are the public face of autism, their appeal helping to win public understanding and educational support. Will there be public support for them as adults?
For hundreds of thousands of adolescents with autism about to become adults, there are very few programs or little to no housing available. For those desperate to find a solution, it is a “public health
crisis.” Roughly 500,000 children with autism will become adults over the next 10 years. According to recent statistics Autism is the
fastest-growing developmental disorder in the US with 1 in every 68
children diagnosed with ASD.
Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have seen significant changes in our environment. As a society, we have gotten comfortable with the idea of accommodations for people with physical disabilities.
For people with extreme behavioral challenges of autism, society is
almost at a loss as to what to do for them. One third of children with
autism never speak, only making grunts and high pitched sounds.
It is a misconceived belief that by the time a child with Autism reaches the age of 21 they will smoothly make the transition into adulthood without special guidance and continued support. For many families the option to send their autistic child to a group home or some other type of institution (if even available) is heartbreaking and not an option they are willing to consider. For others, the often difficult choice to find a residential school or group home is necessary for the well being and safety of the child and family as a whole. As parents age often the role of guardianship for the adult with ASD is passed on to a sibling or other family member.
Shane Guffogg Curates Portrature an exhibition
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 11, 2017 from 5 PM - 8 PM Exhibition dates: November 11th - December 22nd, 2017
ORANGE COUNTY CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
117 North Sycamore,
Santa Ana, CA. 92701 USA
An exhibition featuring selective work consisting of paintings, mixed media and drawings, by Southern California and internationally acclaimed artists,
Artists in alphabetical order,
XANDER BERKELEY, DON BACHARDY, JEFF BRITTON, SHANE GUFFOGG,
LAURA HIPKE, DORO HOFMANN, MICHAEL LINDSAY-HOGG, DEBORAH MARTIN,
ED RUSCHA, PAUL RUSCHA, VONN SUMNER AND ALISON VAN PELT.