Kenyon Class of ’14, Studio Art major
The poet Carl Philips debates whether distortion is preferable to reality. Philips considers if seeing the glory of foliage is preferable to the branches underneath. I have embarked on a similar exploration through this series by experimenting with the barriers that keep the viewer from seeing what exists beneath a portrait.
Through this process I used gesso (an almost transparent medium) as my eraser. As a result of this technique of layering pencil over gesso, the viewer is able to see all the marks that make up a portrait. I used myself as the single model throughout this series to serve as a constant reference for the viewer to gauge the different aspects of a person a portrait may reveal.
I chose to create a series of drawings in pencil and gesso in order to challenge the common conception that drawings are unfinished, and only a stage in the ultimate goal of creating a finished painting. I also wanted to preserve the vulnerability of the work, reveal different aspects of a subject, and make the viewer more aware of the ways lines can alter the practice of seeing by leaving my mistakes visible.
To create this series, I completed a self-portrait each day starting in January. This rigorous process allowed me to gain a control over my image and immerse the viewer in it. In order to do this, I sought to highlight and address the passive role into which the figure is often cast by the objectifying gaze of artist and audience. By using myself as the model, I defined the subject of the portraits as the artist, causing the model to become less then a prop. In this series, the model is rendered in more active roles, gazing outward towards the viewer. Thus, this series attempts to reverse the objectifying gaze that is often cast upon a subject, rendering the model as confronting and countering the viewer’s gaze.
– Maren Less, ‘14