Portrait Landscapes

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Floyd-Pruitt, Anwar; Bernard, Dylan
article description
Portrait Landscapes builds on Passing Between and Dynamic Stasis, the two previous collaborations between professors Dr. Nathaniel Stern and Jessica Meuninck-Ganger, in which traditional and contemporary art forms are juxtaposed by mounting translucent prints and drawings directly on top of video screens to create moving images on paper. The results expand our understanding of these disparate practices, question conventions of image making, augment the narrative on the history of art and media, and create a complexity that engages the audience, not as passive viewers, but empowered coauthors of the works’ meaning. It is exactly this complexity that Portrait Landscapes investigates in a forthcoming series that features a diverse group of local leaders; challenging the artists, the subjects, and the viewers to look beyond the surface, even reconsider the concept of a surface in the works of art and in our subjects. Through a series of audio-recorded interviews, each subject answered questions about who they are, who they are known to be, why they are, how they came to be, which informed our decision of where to shoot video documentation of them and what activity they would perform in the video. Silent, edited versions of the video are played on loop on LCD digital screens, which are then overlaid with a print or drawing that feature visual elements from the video but is highly influenced by the content of the original audio interview. Each work is completed with a short biography and a title card, both of which feature varying self-reflections of the subject, resulting in a portrait that represents our subjects in a deeper and more multifaceted way than any single medium or depiction could achieve. Perhaps the most significant findings at this stage of the process are the manifold paths to the various conceptions and manifestations of leadership experienced and evidenced by our subjects, exploring and challenging notions of self, community, family, service, passion, compassion, and justice, and additionally representing all of these ideas and more in a portrait of an individual. Society is saturated with acronyms, truncated words, character limits, avatars, symbols, and never-ending upgrades. Portrait Landscapes stands opposed to consolidation, generalization, and simplification under the guise of convenience, and acknowledges that true understanding requires time, effort, and willingness to explore from multiple vantage points. Championing diversity in all of its forms, Portrait Landscapes stands as a model of how to see and be in this world.