David Engdahl

Jacksonville Artists FACE FORWARD

Face Forward, an exhibit featuring 30 artists who present their interpretations of themselves through the use of various types of media for self-portraiture is now at the Jacksonville International Airport Haskell Gallery starting on October 1.

Interior designer-artist Larry Wilson, member of the Airport Arts Commission, issued a challenge to the 30 artists which has resulted in this hallmark show. “We wanted to create an exhibition that showcased the incredible breadth of talent in Northeast Florida. Challenging artists to do self-portraits creates an environment of introspection and thoughtfulness guaranteed to produce an enticing and provocative  show.” Artists were given a defined space to produce their self-portrait–a 24-inch square box–and the results are as diverse as the artists themselves.

From gourd pieces to looking through the lens of an architect using 3D technology, the show is a multi-faceted visual feast. If you didn’t see it at CoRK, you should make a special trip to the airport. The show is not to be missed in either location.  

Mindy Hawkins_self-portraitInternationally known for her gourd work, artist Mindy Hawkins says, “I have always been intrigued and inspired by the fact that for thousands of years, artists in cultures around the world have created art on gourds, and that the types of decorations these artists used are as diverse as the cultures from which they came. My piece utilizes my personal artistic techniques involving gourd shapes, texture and color. It is my hope that the love I have for my medium is reflected in my self-portrait.”

Trained as an architect, artist David Engdahl expresses his personal journey through organic shapes and technology. He created his portrait with computer-generated diagrams that were used to cut the individual pieces. Working with the 3D artists at Jacksonville-based Forge, Inc., Engdahl melded their technical expertise with his own personal vision for his portrait.

“I’ve been working with laminated plywood as a technique of artistic expression for 44 years, and it seemed natural that I pursue the challenge of a self-portrait from the same perspective,” says Engdahl.

“The demands of a self-portrait are very different than my typical sculpture approach, and I thought that technology might be a good way to achieve the detail I wanted. Starting with a computer-generated 3D scan of my head, we developed a contour file, which we manipulated to obtain a realistic, but somewhat abstract, likeness. We used this electronic file for a CNC router cutting 1/8” plywood pieces. These were sequentially glued together to create the sculpture which I simply titled “Self Portrait.” No finish was applied to the sculpture, or to the provided plywood box, which I reversed to provide a frame.”

Jim DraperArtist Jim Draper used graphite to draw his self-portrait directly on the plywood encased in the frame, finishing it off with varnish. Even though he said, “My portrait is in response to ‘filling out a entry form’, completing a task,” his many followers will see in his hair blowing in the wind echoes of his many river, tributary, and swamp scenes, always moving, always experimenting, always going forward. “It’s something different,” he said– just as we would expect.

Paul Ladnier Life at 71
Paul Ladnier Life at 71

Paul Ladnier always surprises us, and his self-portrait delves into the yin and yang every artist has, the positive and the negative, the mask and the face underneath. “It is not uncommon for an artist to paint many self-portraits during a lifetime,” says Ladnier. “My ‘Life at 71’ is my latest look at myself. It is a double portrait that reveals two sides of the artist. A serious, introspective side and a more humorous view of me watching me paint myself and perhaps amused that at 71 I’m still painting and creating ‘selfies’ the old fashioned way!”

Artist and professor Louise Freshman Brown’s “Just Face It” offers a unique perspective, too. Her artist statement sums up her thoughts on her portrait as a visual of mixed media all melded together into a single vision, bringing the eye to every corner and back again.

Louise Freshman Brown's mixed media painting“I photograph walls and objects when traveling in the United States and Europe,” says Brown. “My portrait combines drawing, painting, photographs and etchings reconfigured and altered. They bridge the gap between the past and present, combining many facets of my history. Removing the images from their original context, I reconstruct memory into a fabricated space that represents self-reflection.”

Tony WoodWhen artist Tony Wood was challenged with developing his portrait, he went to work. “My first thought was to paint myself with thin washes which would allow the woodgrain of the 2’x2’ panel to become part of the image,” he explains. “It was more about process than content and more about the visual than the emotional. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get it to work. My heart just wasn’t in it. Life had crept in, and all the emotion of a very tumultuous year wanted to find its way out. I decided to paint myself a little darker in content, and this also led to thicker passages of paint, cooler flesh tones and the creases and crevices that make up a life long lived.”

Wood sums it up in a favorite quotation by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin: “Who told you that one paints with color? One makes use of colors, but one paints with emotions.”     

All in all, this show is a mirror of time, a reflection of how each artist sees himself or herself, now and through a lifetime of artistic experience. So take your time, walk in the Haskell Gallery at JIA. Be surprised.


About Joanelle Mulrain