Relating and portraiture
One of the most interesting aspects of working on Subjective has been learning about how my relationships with my subjects affect the finished portraits. I always knew that they did, but it wasn’t until I sat down and performed this experiment on myself that I understood the full extent.
Simply put, the less of a relationship I have with the subject the more the portrait is about the subject instead of about the subject and me. The portraits of my family from Subjective are full of little details referring to our relationships, our past, our way of being together. The portraits of Becca’s family are less cluttered with history, because, for the most part, I didn’t know the subjects at all.
Of the portraits of Becca’s family, her daughter’s is the most complex. That may seem strange in light of what I just said about a relationship and a shared history influencing a portrait, but it makes sense really.
Since Hazel was barely two when we did the photoshoot for this portrait, she wasn’t particularly interested in answering my usual interview questions…
...so I asked her mother to fill in the blanks for me.
And that’s how the portrait became a three-way collaboration: Becca’s insights into her daughter mixed with the interactions that Hazel and I had as I photographed her. In many ways, this painting is more about Becca and Hazel than it is about Hazel and I. It’s still about a relationship, just not the relationship between the artist and the subject.
Hazel was actually holding a “Bb” card at some point during the photoshoot…
...and I decided to incorporate it into the painting because of its reference to Becca’s initials—a detail which Becca’s father, Bob Bernstein, noted immediately!
What’s more, I liked how the big “B” and the baby “b” followed the mother-child theme I was developing in the paintings of Becca’s mother and my own Maman.
Still, there was something missing from the painting.
And when I saw this among Becca’s photos on Facebook, I knew what it was.
I loved this example of Hazel’s first figurative drawing and it seemed only fitting that it be included in a show about portraiture.
Subjective is up right now in Portland, so I won’t show you Becca’s version of her daughter in this post—it’s way better in person anyway. That said, I will show you how Hazel returned the favor.
I love how teal and purple—two of my favorite colors and two colors that I often wear together—make a portrait of me!
To see Subjective, visit the North View Gallery by 5 February…
Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
North View Gallery
Portland Community College Sylvania Campus
12000 SW 49th Avenue, Portland, OR 97219