Portraits: Masked/Unmasked curated by Barbara Koerble

Portraits: Masked/Unmasked curated by Barbara Koerble

July 6 - July 27, 2018

Reception: July 6, 2018; 6 - 9pm

This exhibition curated by Barbara Koerble explores both masked and unmasked approaches to the art of portraiture by nineteen multi-generational photographers. Are the subjects hiding or revealing their true personas, and do the portraits reveal larger issues in our culture?

Cameras have a significant effect on people when they are aware they are being photographed. An artificial or a defensive mask is typically presented by a self-aware subject to the camera. Most successful commercial photographers cater to their clients’ desire to appear at their best in their own portraits. They may collaborate with the individual in the creation of an idealized mask. Other photographers utilize various strategies to remove this mask-like barrier, often by catching their subject unawares in an unmasked moment.

This is an exhibition that examines both sides of the masked and the unmasked portrait. Some of these individuals are literally wearing a mask, some are wearing “the face they keep in the jar by the door” (John Lennon), and the images of others are obscured by the photographer or by the subject themselves. Sometimes an underlying aspect of the life of the photographed individual is revealed by unguarded facial expressions or by objects in the photograph. Some photographs in the exhibition capture subjects that, knowingly or unwittingly, provide more insight into their real selves, temporarily letting the barrier drop. Other images that may disturb our complacency involve portraits of individuals in distress where we emphasize with their plight through our shared humanity. The subject of death has been depicted in deathbed portraits throughout history, which rather than being viewed as macabre, may in fact serve as a comforting remembrance of the beloved deceased.

Works by three photographers—Gary Bishop, Leticia Huckaby, and Byrd Williams IV--are featured throughout the exhibition and provide a framework for the talented ensemble of photographers who offer a wide-ranging survey of the art of portraiture. Gary Bishop’s journalistic photographs objectively capture individuals in dramatic moments. In spite of intervening years, these photographs have increased resonance today due to recent events of racial alienation, mass shootings, foster care abuse, and incarceration of immigrants. Both Leticia Huckaby and Byrd Williams hone in on portrayals of their family members utilizing different media and techniques. Huckaby’s mixed media works have a comforting, yet ethereal presence. Williams’ family triptychs form a leitmotif through the exhibition, in works that depict full life cycles of his relatives. Several works comment on the tragedy of lives cut short and include a final deathbed portrait, as in the powerful release of Doris, Byrd’s mother.

The exhibition was curated by Barbara Koerble, an independent curator, arts writer and art professor at Tarrant County College. Artists included in the exhibition are: Cordelia Bailey, Kipp Baker, Kent Barker, Gary Bishop, Anthony Marcus Black, Abraham Cepeda, Tracy Costello, Lauren Cross, David Donovan, William Greiner, Inga Hendrickson, Leticia Huckaby, O. Rufus Lovett, John Carlisle Moore, Shelby Orr, Raul Rodriguez, Leo Wesson, Byrd Williams IV and Camille J. Wheeler