Our Community, Our Neighbors
Artist Statement: Our Community, Our Neighbors
The portraits that comprise the Our Community, Our Neighbors exhibit intend to demonstrate the humanity, the individuality, the divine spark in every person. Although you may recognize the subject, I want you to also see the universality of the human experience in the faces I’ve depicted. To achieve this, I keep my backgrounds flat and abstract. (Background paints were chosen based on the subject’s favorite color.) I paint an outline around the perimeter of the head, thus separating it from the background. I keep the details of the face as simple as I can, to highlight the uniqueness of that face. Once satisfied with the basic painting, I add marks and scrapes that may be interpreted various ways—as emotions, as the context of the person’s situation, or as the subject’s interior life.
The Back Story
In the summer of 2019, I read a book entitled The Happiness of Pursuit, by Chris Guillebeau. The author espouses the taking on of quests and gave numerous examples of people who had taken on challenging projects. It inspired me to define such a quest for myself.
I chose to paint 26 portraits of unsheltered people. The portraits would be a means of lifting up the marginalized in our community. A plan began to take shape. By August of 2019, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition and I had joined forces to use this portrait project to demonstrate the humanity and individuality of those who have experienced homelessness.
Interrupted by the pandemic in 2020, the project picked up momentum in mid-2021.TCHC arranged for Laura to meet people in safe places for interviews and photo sessions. Interview questions were designed not to elicit a story of how the subjects became homeless, but to show them as human beings with childhood memories, with likes and dislikes, with talents and gifts, with favorite colors and favorite foods, with uniqueness and worth. After the interview, I took photos of each subject to use as references for painting the portraits in the studio. Laura painted all 26 portraits plus one larger bonus portrait between March and September of 2021.
The exhibit Our Community, Our Neighbors, opened at the Templeton Gallery on the Texas Wesleyan University campus on February 17, 2022, and ran through May 5, 2022. Each subject was given a framed print of their portrait for their personal enjoyment.
Many of the portraits have been sold to support Tarrant County Homeless Coalition's mission.
(Images to come)