Honest portraiture is a difficult, if not impossible, thing to achieve. The sitter’s self-image and the artist’s interpretation of him or her can become skewed by subjective narratives, and the end result is often more fictional than documentary. On January 10, Arch Enemy Arts in Philadelphia will present “Grins & Lies,” a group show that explores portraiture as a narrative art form rich with storytelling possibilities.
Buddy Nestor, one of the featured artists, for instance, paints portraits with only a faint semblance of the sitter’s appearance, instead warping human figures into haunting, disfigured shadows. Maria Teicher’s piece in the show, painted with deft realism, shows a figure morbidly enveloped in plastic, as if gasping for his last breaths. Rachel Bridge’s surreal paintings resemble film stills — snapshots of her protagonists at turning points in their story lines. It’s up to the viewer to imagine what these stories might hold. “Grins & Lies” opens January 10 and will be on view through February 16.
Kristen Forbes Mullane