‘Fix Ya Face’ – Beyond The Portrait
In the exhibition “Fix Ya Face!” which opened at The D’Aguilar Art Foundation this past week, 36 pieces explore the human face through a wide range of artistic styles and media.
First time curator Alistair Stevenson says the accessible subject of the face provides its viewers with a chance to learn about artistic methods and art history.
“This exhibition is an opportunity for the public to gain further understanding of different types art available in The Bahamas outside of realism. As the exhibition only shows faces, it provides the opportunity to study the different styles and techniques the artists have used,” he said.
From the more realistic depictions of the human face by Max Taylor, Dede Brown and Matthew Wildgoose, to the fantastical imaginings of Stan Burnside, Jackson Petit and Dylan Rapillard, to the most abstract constructions by Kendal Hanna, Brent Malone and Joanne Behagg, and even artists from the U.S., Jamaica, Haiti, Africa and Canada, including renowned African- American artist and writer Romare Bearden, “Fix Ya Face!” provides a rich offering of artwork that both celebrates and subverts the universal human attribute.
Though the pieces aren’t necessarily portraits since a portrait is an image of a specific individual with whom the artist shares a relationship, they offer through painting, clay, metalwork and wood the chance to engage in what makes a human face.
Saskia D’Aguilar, director of the D’Aguilar Art Foundation, says she was inspired to host “Fix Ya Face!” by the recent exhibition “Making Faces” at The Opera Gallery in New York City, which gave artists a chance to challenge traditional definitions and signifiers of the human face.
“We’re always looking for new ideas and we look at what’s going on in the global art world,” she said. “That show spoke to me because it included diverse, non-traditional images of the face. What I appreciated was that the faces were not pretty, but rather included many quirky faces with peculiar expressions.”
“I think even as a child you see little faces everywhere, like in plumbing fixtures or driftwood on the beach, because there is this instant recognition of the basic elements of a face,” she added. “So in this show we have included a range of faces, from more realistic portraiture to the bare essential components of eyes, noses and mouths. I am fascinated by the innate recognition of the key characteristics required to create a human face, which the artists here have pushed to the limits of artistic expression.”
By bringing the show into a Bahamian context with the colloquialism “fix ya face”, the exhibition inadvertently begs the question of “what is beauty?” from its viewers – not only in faces themselves, but in the range of artistic styles that create such compelling compositions in reimagining human features.
“The phrase ‘fix ya face’ is an old Bahamian expression that we hear often. When you think more carefully about the phrase, it’s very humorous,” said Stevenson. “I wanted people to think about the phrase itself – how do you even begin to fix your face? Not everything needs to be so pretty and tame, and the show includes works illustrating different ideals of beauty.”
In their departures from hyper-realist staged portraits, pieces like the unsettling Rorschach-test “Mask of Girl” by Kendal Hanna, or the creature-like “Crucifixion in Brown and Black” by Jean Claude ‘Tiga’ Garoute, or Randolph Johnston’s peculiar empty bronze head “The Diplomat”, offer a more complex understanding of humanity that delves beyond a glossy and beautiful surface.
Indeed, no matter the representation, the pieces in the show use the face as a way to subvert such superficial discussions and help the audience to appreciate a more engaging and challenging everyday beauty – in both the human form and in art itself.
• “Fix Ya Face” will be on display until January 2013. To view the collection, please call 325-1957 or 322- 2323 to make an appointment for Tuesdays or Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Saturday, November 24, 2012