Partner: Red Head Gallery and Cameron House
Location: Red Head Gallery in 401 Richmond
Project Members: Alice-Rachel Delph
Historically used as a form of memento, love-token, and as a physical object of remembrance, miniature portrait silhouettes faced obsolescence with the development of the photographic arts. Easy to understand, identify, and recognize, the silhouette genre is a way of reducing the human form to the bare essentials. It is a unifying art that is imbued with a sense of nostalgia and reverence.
In contemporary society’s digitally networked, ephemeral, and increasingly narcissistic climate, this discontinued mode of figural representation is worth revisiting. In keeping with the historical undertones of this artistic technique that inherently relies on face-to-face interaction, the internet, and social media were not implemented in the initial process or promotion of this artistic endeavor.
“It’s good to see you…” began in the spring and summer of 2018. It was a local, social, and aesthetic project made possible by the active participation of the Cameron House community of downtown Toronto, Ontario. The ultimate goal was to achieve a statistical number of silhouette drawings (a hundred sittings and logged encounters) that simultaneously would act as artworks and documents to be translated into a multi-media art installation.
This project was orchestrated and sustained by open invitation, handwritten notes, and word of mouth. The Cameron House is primarily an artistic community of actors, writers, artists, and musicians. These people willingly partook in this immersive and interactive “human to human” process that eventually evolved into a mixed-media installation work that includes over a hundred 8”x10” framed glass painted silhouettes.
The artistic process started with the interested participants sitting for the artist while their profile portrait was drawn traditionally in real-time on paper by hand, in person. These encounters were logged on video. The result was a series of large-scale, graphite-rendered paper drawings that were created by the shadows cast onto a glass paper-holding apparatus. Each drawing measured 19”x24” and were identified by a stenciled number on the top right corner ranging from 000 to 109.
These outline drawings were meticulously filled in and rendered solid before they were digitally scanned. Once a digital artifact was created, the contrast was manipulated, and the object was reversed and reduced in scale. This source material was then used as reference for a series of miniature portrait silhouettes reproduced in paint, on 2mm-thick glass that uses the photographic standard of 8”x10” sheets.
What was initially an approximately “three minute sitting” became an intimate performance between the Cameron House patron and their resident artist. In addition to providing their time sitting for a portrait, the sitters were asked to reveal a secret, a wish, a dream or their favorite Canadian artist on a 3”x5” standard index card. Here the participant was asked to share with an anonymous voice their innermost thoughts, providing the project with unpredictable layers of meaning.
“It’s good to see you…” is an interactive art installation at the Red Head Gallery in 401 Richmond that is comprised of:
A date-stamped logbook document spanning 2018-2021.
A sculpture of miniature empty paint tins.
110 numbered graphite 19”x24” drawings of the sittings.
110 personalized anon. index cards:(a secret, a wish, or a dream).
A full-scale interactive wooden drawing apparatus.
A four-paneled privacy/folding screen.
A digital film/video of the drawing artifacts and index cards.
110 painted 8” x 10” glass silhouettes (#000-#109).
The artist’s intent is that a connection between the viewer and art object is created due to the intimacy of the hand-painted miniature works, the reflections in the glass, and the cast shadows. The paintings are to be looked through and at. The viewer is reflected back from the glass objects as the painted silhouettes create an obscured mirror-like surface. This physical effect highlights our poetic reality in which each person is reflected back through their interactions with another.
Interconnected by this seemingly familiar yet antiquated format, the viewer is confronted with a silent, contemporary and local dialogue. This installation of individual portraits that are historicized by the silhouette technique is an open narrative of diverse personalities, transmitted through glass, paint, light and shadow. The work seeks to connect the viewer to the anonymous painted subject with an absence of pre-defined notions. “It’s good to see you…” is an evocative dialogue that is communicated and left open to be explored, enjoyed, and evaluated by the public. In art and in life, it is the shadows and the light that define us.