In 'Face Forward' art exhibit, 30 local artists look at themselves
Mon, Sep 21, 2015
By Charlie Patton

“Face Forward,” an exhibit of self-portraits by 30 local artists, was created to be the next exhibit at the Haskell Gallery at the Jacksonville International Airport, which rotates new exhibits of work by area artists every three months.

But “Face Forward” is such an unusual and fascinating look at Jacksonville arts community that members of the Airport Arts Commission wanted to give Jacksonville residents a chance to see the work; nobody goes to the airport just to look at art.

So “Face Forward” will be on exhibit from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday at CoRK Studio East, 2689 Rosselle St. Then it will be transported to the JIA where it will open the following Thursday, Oct. 1.

The exhibit was the idea of Larry Wilson, an interior designer and artist who is a member of the Airport Arts Commission. Wilson’s challenge to the 29 other artists in the show was to create a self-portrait on a 24-inch square.

“I wanted to control the format,” he said. “Giving them the 24-square-inch boxes would pull them out of their comfort zones. And the challenge of the self-portrait would make them introspective.”

The result is a diverse set of images created by a diverse group of artists, both ethnically and chronologically.

“We wanted a mix of higher-profile and emerging artists,” Wilson said.

Thus the show mixes work by long-established artists such as Jim Draper, Enzo Torcoletti and Louise Freshman Brown with work by younger artists like Franklin Ratliff, Sara Pedigo and Adrian Pickett.

Wilson is one of four members of the Airport Arts Commission who has a self-portrait in the show. His “By Myself” is a mixed media on panel that offers a clay depiction of Wilson’s head and face, with rusty nails emerging from his skull and a small naked man on his shoulder. Other than to note that the face on his self-portrait looked unnervingly like his father, Wilson said he learned long ago that it’s best to leave the interpretation of a work art to the viewer.

“You have to draw your own conclusions,” he said.

Other commission members with self-portraits in the exhibit are David Engdahl, John Bunker and Robin Shepherd. Bunker did an acrylic portrait with half his face depicted as he looks today and half his face depicted as a much younger Bunker.

His artist’s narrative? “Tempus Fugit — Carpe Diem.”

Mary St. Germain’s artist’s narrative about her self-portrait “Maybe” also wittily addressed time’s cruel passage.

“I am twenty-eight years old,

“in my heart and in my head.

“The mirror tells untruths …”

Other artist’s narratives talk philosophy.

“The artist is the conduit between the hidden world that lies below the surface, behind the curtain, beneath the mask,” Hiromi Moneyhun wrote.

In his narrative Overstreet Ducasse talks about Picasso’s use of African art during the period between 1906 and 1909. While Picasso’s art was labeled modern, the work he was appropriating was labeled “primitive,” Ducasse writes.

“For this portrait project, my plan is to reverse the idea that African art is primitive by using Picasso’s style and his influences,” he writes.

He also borrows Picasso’s name, labeling his self-portrait “Ducasso.”

Shaun Thurston’s self-portrait is the re-creation of a photograph of him holding his newborn daughter, Iris.

“Fatherhood has defined the way I think of my place in this world for the last 14 years,” he writes in his narrative. “… It seems to me that the most important gift you can give your children is the undeniable truth that they are loved. This portrait belongs to her.”

Other artists in the exhibit include Adrian Pickett, Chip Southworth, Daniel Wynn, Doug Eng, Bill Yates, Christie Holechek, Dave Engdahl, Dustin Harewood, Mindy Hawkins, Paul Ladnier, Steve Williams, Thony Aiuppy, Susan Ober, Tony Wood, Jim Benedict, Jason John, Kevin Arthur and Laurie Hitzig.

Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413