Visionaries and Voices: Reflecting on I’ll Be Your Mirror
On January 10th, Visionaries + Voices opened their show I’ll Be Your Mirror, an ode to all types of portraiture which promised to open our minds to what is looks like to see yourself and the people around you in a new light. A few weeks after the show opened, I decided to take a visit to Visionaries + Voices Northside to see the show and see the dozens of artists’ work represented in the gallery. The show did just as it intended and opened my eyes to the beauty of portraiture and how we use art to see ourselves and those around us differently. The show at the Northside gallery consisted of portraiture and sculpture and was so extensive that the array of works continued out of the gallery space and into the adjacent studio space. Nonetheless, the gallery was packed. All four walls had some kind of portraiture sprawled around it. From the ceiling to the floors, there were framed pictures of faces, busts, full bodies, and portraits of all kinds. In the center of the room a large piece of thin reflective foil hung from the ceiling, and next to it an arrangement of smaller mirror’s with dry erase marker faces drawn on them. Excluding the framed portraits, the walls were nearly bare; there was no exhibition explanation or background information, nor artist names or works’ titles. The only words visible on the walls were “I’ll Be Your Mirror” secured in reflective writing on the back wall of the gallery.
As one walks around it is noticeable that every piece was unique and different in many ways to the ones around it. There were pieces done in ink, marker, paint, paper mache, and many more mediums I couldn’t identify by sight. The pieces varied from minimalistic line drawings, to complex detailed paintings. Some of the frames had multiple people portrayed in one work, and some had just one figure. Laying on the ground next to one of the gallery’s walls there was a packet of paper that outlined which pieces were which and the prices of each. All things considered, the prices of the works were as eclectic as the array of works themselves, ranging from $20 to $550 and everything in between.
One of the pieces that stuck out to me was a portrait that was entitled Paul Gaugain by Andrew Hostick. Seemingly, the piece is done in colored pencil and is in a plain black frame. It features a portrait of a man from the shoulders up, drawn abstractly with an abundance of colors. The background of the piece is green and the man’s skin is yellow with pops of gray, red, pink, and brown. The abstractness of the drawing immediately reminded me of the assumed namesake of the subject, Paul Gauguin. The shapes and colors are those that could be compared with the work that Gauguin did in the late 19th century in Tahiti. It was a beautifully done piece that was what I found to be a great homage to the portraiture of the impressionist, Gauguin.
Wanting to find out more information about the art and the artists, I got into contact with Chris Potoka, the curator of I’ll Be Your Mirror. He challenged me to consider the types of portraits we see in antiquity: those of aristocrats done very pristinely in oil.
“Our work is kind of the opposite,” Potoka told me, “non formal artists drawing subjects of non formal variety.”
He explained that weeks before the show he encouraged artists to consider making art of a number of different subjects: friends, family, people they knew. The one guideline was to not use celebrities.
“I liked the idea of destabilizing the subjects of people in art as needing to be from a historic, social, or exemplary background,” Potoka explained.
After the meaning of the show was explained to me, I began to see the true beauty behind the mitch-matched eclecticity of the show. By having the opened ended interpretation of an artist’s representation of a person they know, it allowed them to put their inner thoughts or feelings about that person out on paper. Thus, they serve as the mirror of what they see in a person to the person who they are seeing. However, it wasn’t just what the artist saw in the other person that was represented.
“Part of the experience too was being able to see yourself...” Potoka said, “I like the idea of people being able to see the beauty they see in other or in art in themselves.”
Hence, the true takeaway from this show wasn’t just to see portraits of subjects, but of the artists themselves. It was a privilege for me to go and see a show that had such a profoundly (for lack of a better word) reflective message about the artists at Visionaries + Voices and the people in their lives. I’ll Be Your Mirror, is up through March 20, and I would encourage all who enjoy the beauties of portraiture of all styles to go see the lovely faces at Visionaries + Voices.
I’ll Be Your Mirror, Visionaries and Voices Northside, runs January 10, 2019-March 20, 2019.
Written by Emilie King