Press > Article 01

A close-up look at an exhibit of 'FACES'

Riford Library show examines the human face

Editor's note: The author of this article, Joe Nalven, blogs about visual arts for U-T San Diego. He is one of the artists featured in this exhibit.

The human face often compels attention. In art, in the psychology of emotions, in religious pictorials, on the society pages and even on wanted posters.

Sometimes, we are driven to pessimism: "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." — George Orwell

At other times, we can find an inspirational thought juxtaposed with a touch of realism: "God has given you one face, and you make yourself another." — William Shakespeare

And then there are those prickly barbs: "Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening." — Greta Garbo


When: Through May 17

Where: Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave., La Jolla

Phone: (858) 552-1657


The new art exhibit at the Riford Gallery in La Jolla provides an ongoing wealth of insights and curiosities about the human face.

It is titled, "FACES" — of course.

Emily J.G. Vermillion curated the exhibit for the La Jolla Library Art Committee. The exhibit features 30 works by 27 San Diego area artists.

I wondered how Vermillion saw the art of the face compared with portraiture.

Emily Vermillion: The "FACES" exhibit is different than a portraiture show. Generally speaking, in traditional portraiture, an artist attempts to capture the pure physical characteristics of the human subject as best as possible so that the final product is recognizable, identifiable as the subject. Often portraiture ends up being a copy of the person's exterior rather than delving into the spirit or essence of the person. My intention for "FACES" was to be more open as to what is a face. I was looking for creativity, ingenuity, passion, expression rather than simply physical reproduction.

Here are a selection of the images that invited me to reflect, tickled my mind or evoked an emotional response. Included are the artist's comments on their art.

Althea Brimm

Althea Brimm: "The Average American Voter"

"The Average American Voter is in response to some of the interviews with people about why and for whom they were going to vote: He has the same name as my uncle, she is just like us, his opponent is a Moslem, she owns five Chihuahuas. Disheartening to say the least, but a splendid opportunity for satire."

Jennifer Strulowitz

Jennifer Strulowitz: "Bentlee"

"I always paint faces, moods, and vibrant colors, but I don't plan the subject or which colors I'm going to use — so usually I have no idea what a piece is going to look like until it comes out.

"Sometimes, as artists, we're too close to see the changes in our own work. I didn't realize until someone mentioned it, but when I lived in a colder climate, I often reached for paints in cool tones like raspberry, emerald green, and shades of blue; but since moving to La Jolla, I've been using a lot of warmer tones, like the lime green that I used in 'Bentlee.' "

Sally Bucko

Sally Bucko: "Veiled Woman"

"My favorite subjects to photograph are people whose customs, dress and environment have remained relatively unaffected by the modern world. I photographed the 'Veiled Woman' in Luni, Rajasthan, India, a small town in the Thar Desert in November of 2012. There is a mystery about her as she peers surreptitiously around a corner with her fuchsia veil covering her face, yet her eyes are visible through the semitransparent fabric and seem to be looking for someone or something, or is she hiding something? It is ironic that a veil can be either mysterious and erotic or repressive and opacifying."

Linda Kardoff

Linda Kardoff: "Fighting Shyness"

"I focus on the visual aspects of a drawing more than on the narrative. 'Fighting Shyness' came easily to me because of the contrast between his brutish physique and sensitive demeanor."

Mohan Sundaresan

Mohan Sundaresan: "Self-Portrait"

"The piece I have at the library Is a self-portrait. Reason: I like to amuse everyone, either with a joke or say something without holding back. Sometimes it leaves a thought or a shock. I hope my nose is sharp as a bolt. The eyes wide open, so I can see much of it."

The artists participating in "FACES" are: Eleanor Bell, K. D. Benton, Althea Brimm, Sally Bucko, Fran Carder, Nicole Caulfield, Emily Dinnerman, Peter Fay, Faith Fleury, Ken Goldman, Richard Haeger, Michele Jackson, Judy Judy Judy, Linda Kardoff, Dana Levine, Elissa Lieberman, Kathy McChesney, Marion Mettler, Kris Moore, Joe Nalven, Judy Pike, Heidi Rufeh, Renata Shafor, Jennifer Strulowitz, Mohan Sundaresan, Ron Tatro and Richard Warner.

A Further Reflection on Famous Faces

When we go online, watch an event on TV or open our morning newspaper, we come across celebrity images. Famous faces can excite interest in an event — beyond the actual happening.

I imagined what a celebrity photo might look like at the "FACES" exhibit. (Yes, this is a faux photo.)

In my imagined reception photo, I spotted likenesses of Steve Martin, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Diane Feinstein and Lucy Liu.

Perhaps our attraction to celebrity — even in the context of an excellent art show — reveals another side to our interest in human faces. And to wonder if those whose faces we see actually think about their public and private faces.

"What is a face, really? Its own photo? Its make-up? Or is it a face as painted by such or such painter? That which is in front? Inside? Behind? And the rest? Doesn't everyone look at himself in his own particular way? Deformations simply do not exist." — Pablo Picasso

Faux faces from left to right: Steve Martin, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Diane Feinstein, Lucy Liu


All Images Copyright© 2024 Jennifer Strulowitz Intuitive Art. All rights reserved.