More than a pretty face

‘Janie’ by Clarity Haynes

I wait with bated breath for the triennial Outwin Boochever portrait competition held at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. As a figurative artist interested in portraiture I am thrilled that this art form is celebrated by the Smithsonian Institute network of galleries.

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Ray DiCapua ‘Phyllis’ (artist’s mother). Charcoal
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Detail of ‘Phyllis’ (above)

I have written several blogs about portraiture, extolling its virtues as an art form and bemoaning its waning glory in terms of its commercial viability. Despite current trends I continue to be lured back time and again to the human face as a vehicle for illuminating our culture and time. More than in previous years,  this year’s Outwin Bouchever finalists cover just about all the social issues relevant in today’s society – old age, obesity, gender, disability, race, the immigrant experience, you name it.

Jess T. Dugan ‘Self-Portrait (muscle shirt)

Jess T. Dugan describes her work as positioned “within a framework of queer experience and from my actively constructed sense of masculinity.” I admit that I have no clue what she is talking about, but the gender defying message in her photograph is clear.

Rick Ashley ‘Michael # 145973’

Michael (the subject in the photograph above) is the photographer’s brother-in-law. He has Down Syndrome. The pair have been making photographs together since 1975, with Michael often directing the shoot.

Sedrick Huckaby ‘Sedrick.Sed, Daddy’

This monumental, highly textured self-portrait is part of the Huckaby’s recent group of paintings dealing with the African American family. His self-portrait examines how he balances his roles as artist, professor, husband and father.

There is lots to see in this engrossing exhibition. Below are my two favorite picks, and surprise, surprise, they are both examples of exquisite painting.

Paul Oxborough ‘Harvey and Teddy’


Gaspar Enriquez ‘John’

42 works were selected from a total of 2,500 submissions and well worth a visit. While you’re there check out the winning entry, and place your own vote for the People’s Vote award. If you can’t make it there in person, you can find more images on the official site.

I’d like to take a stab at entering my own works next time round. At this point I think I would select a portrait from my series of people taking selfies. After all the selfie is the great portrait equalizer and the way of the future. I find that this phenomenon speaks volumes about our self-absorption and alienation. I would love to hear any feedback from readers.

Lilianne Milgrom ‘Selfie #4’ 30″ x 36″