A portrait in the hands of an artist is never just a portrait.
It is a commentary, a narration, a spotlight, a collection of symbols, references, it’s a poem, and it’s a study of the model’s psyche, but it’s never just a portrait. Ann Hamilton‘s current project O N E E V E R Y O N E that the artist brought to the ADAA: The Art Show this year, seems to be a cumulative examination of all those things.
Keeping tactility and physical characteristics of materials as the principal thread that connects her various projects, Ann Hamilton centers the current project around Duraflex® – a semi-opaque industrial material developed by Bayer MaterialScience and intended for use with large volumes of liquids and corrosive materials. She focuses her attention on both, the material qualities of the film as well as the emotional processes that develop as a result of subjects’ interaction with it.
At The Art Show art fair the artist and her gallery Carl Solway Gallery decided to stage an artist-in-residence event and directly involve the visitors in the photo project. Each willing participant signs a release form further informing him/her that within a couple of months they would receive a portrait of someone else from the same project, and in turn their photograph would be mailed to another stranger. In an almost meditative voice, Ann guides you to stand inside the cloth-draped booth, behind the white screen and approach it without really touching it.
And then something unexpected and fascinating happens. At the exact moment when you realize that you are being observed without seeing the face of the observer you automatically construct your own psychological environment (is it a defense mechanism?) and focus your attention on Ann’s voice asking you to lean in, or shift ever so slightly to the left, or raise your chin, or turn a full slow circle. As your body and face relax and you sink deeper into your own cognitive stream, your expression softens and that’s when the flash goes off. Not once, but multiple bursts of light flash behind the screen, but somehow they don’t distract. The semi-opaque film that separates you from the camera and everyone else serves as a protective barrier.
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