January 10, 2017
Every big thing is small at some point - even people. Besides the fact that literally everything starts out as a tiny thing, I mean this conceptually, too, in the sense that we don’t always see the whole story. Most of the time, in fact, we don’t see the whole story, but just see fragments of things. This series reflects on the profound stories we all carry, and a reminder that even though we rarely know someone fully enough to know everything about them, the depth we all carry is a reminder of our value.
I first began to think about this as I walked through swarming crowds of people on the streets of Delhi, India. Everyone and everything was part of a big mixing pot of color, honking horns, and flying dust. A feeling of profound insignificance of my face along with all the others weighed on me - or was it profound significance? Each person I passed had a mind full of hopes, ideas, memories and a heart full of love, anger, and sadness. But in each glance they were only fragmented objects rushing past - a shirt collar, a pair of blue eyes, a shiny shoe. They almost weren't people. How did I appear to them?, I wondered. Did they know I was as much a person as they were?
Motivated by our lifelong and momentary identities seen by ourselves and others, I began to create charcoal portraits of each artist in the residency.
On the left of each portrait pair is an exact likeness made with charcoal, reflecting the identities we carry of ourselves. This is the face we watch as we brush our teeth, the face we know increasingly well with each new eye crease, the face that represents cares, hopes, fears, and memories we carry with us always. On the right is a second image, made by placing blank rice paper over the first image and rubbing it with linseed oil to extract some of the charcoal pigment. An obscured copy of the exact likeness, it calls our attention to the image others have of us as we pass them each day.
We cry out for significance, to be known, and to extend our lifetime. When these desires are met we feel thrive - until the images we hold of our security evaporate in the heat of millions of other bodies existing along with ours. What do we become when we are unnoticed and unknown? - merely a shoe glinting in the sunlight, a shadow passing on the side of a building? Through this installation I have become more convinced than ever of our sacredness: our divine likeness fully known by the God of the universe at all times, and, simultaneously, our crumbling momentary form. We are both glorified and humbled.