Portraits from Havre de Grace
Created by artist Pamela Wilde
Exhibition March16th 2019 – April 30th 2019 Artists Emporium 220 N Washington Street Havre De Grace Maryland 21078 US
From January 26th 2018 to January 25th 2019 Pamela Wilde portrayed 120 individuals, she painted 12×12” portraits of anyone willing to sit for a three-hour session in her studio at Artists Emporium in Havre de Grace.
Members, both within and outside the community, took part in modeling sessions with the artist. People from a broad range of age, ethnicity, religion. and background came forward to be painted. The youngest participant, aged seven months, and the eldest, in her 90’s, came to be painted.
When I began this project, I could not anticipate how this experience would impact me. I immediately realized the energy that pulsed between the models and I would greatly influence these works. Returning home after each session I found myself overwhelmed with joy, sheer excitement, and sometimes even, a little bit of confusion from the experience. There was a lot to process, visually and emotionally. Sometimes shared recollections ignited long forgotten memories or similar facial features of a subject could trigger feelings of past relationships. The paintings are as much about me, the artist, as they are of the model. As there is no way for any artist to subtract themselves from their work. My hope that the combination of keen observation, and practiced skill, would allow me to produce a unique piece of art from this shared experience.
Portraits from Havre de Grace allowed me the freedom to work within my personal vision. Unencumbered by any individual expectations, I was allowed to experiment uninterrupted, as I saw fit and to my amazement, the people represented in this exhibition, responded to my vision.
The painting sessions were most personal, and as human, as an encounter can be. The models were normal people, unaccustomed to holding still, let alone, being studied in fine detail by another person. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable to my eyes and brush, trusting me with their image. I in turn, also felt exposed, as my skills were tested in a most public way. I deliberately set my easel in the gallery front window, thus allowing the public to observe our collective progress and personal interaction. With my reputation on the line, I buckled down to work. For better or worse, I prayed our efforts would speak for themselves.
All the paintings in the collection are created in a technique called “Alla Prima” or wet-on-wet, (Italian, meaning at first attempt), direct painting or au premier coup, and is a painting technique in which layers of wet paint are applied to previously administered layers of wet paint.
Understanding from the start of this project that the three-hour sessions and much shorter sessions with children, would inevitably leave unresolved decisions. I allowed myself reference photos of each model to later refresh my memory. Returning to my home studio, with the model image fresh in my mind, and wet paintings in hand, I would load the reference photos into my computer and continue the painting sessions into the evening. Edits to the paintings were kept essential. It was important that I did not lose the freshness and spontaneity of the initial encounter. Having a photo reference helped resolve any technical problems that required fixing after parting ways with my models.
My hope is that this exhibition, Portraits from Havre de Grace, serves to inspire conversation about art, community, diversity and inclusion.
With deep gratitude, I thank all the participants for taking part in this experience with me, for being present in our moment and allowing further exploration of my fascination with painting and portraiture.
You are truly my gift and I will treasure this experience, with each and every one of you, till the end of time.
– Pamela Wilde