Mary Borgman, Merwin (Merf) Shaw, Charcoal on Mylar, 2009
Mary Borgman’s monumental charcoal portraits begin with an intensive engagement with her subjects. During the initial photo shoot she typically befriends her sitters with easygoing conversation, coffee, and cake. She encourages her subjects to listen to their own music and think about something important to them while facing the camera. Gradually, her sitters gain confidence and pose less self-consciously, revealing their individual sensibilities. After the shoot, Borgman draws from the selected photograph in a lengthy, solitary process of addition and subtraction; long strokes of rich charcoal are followed by smudging, erasing, rubbing, and reworking.
Mequitta Ahuja, Meecoo Mocoo, Acrylic, colored pencil, and enamel on stamped and collaged vellum, 2011
Mequitta Ahuja casts herself as a character in a mythic drama in this series of drawings. Seen together, these works form a narrative about a battle with herself and her ultimate triumph. Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ahuja references a variety of cultural traditions, including the arts of Africa, Asia, and America. In these self-portraits she suggests that identity is not only fluid, but that it represents a layering of different guises—both real and fictional, historic and contemporary. Her work also demonstrates an interest in different types of marks and materials. She employs hand stamps, paints with brushes, and draws directly onto the collaged ground.
Ben Durham, Betty, Graphite text on handmade paper, 2009
Mug shots of childhood friends and classmates are the source material for the ongoing Text Portraits series. Each drawing is composed entirely of handwritten text. The content of that text is a graphic, unedited recounting of everything I can remember or have been told about the subject. As the text is repeatedly layered to build the tonal features of the face, a majority of the content is rendered unreadable. The soft texture of the handmade paper tears under the force of the pencil, and the words get lost among the palimpsest of information. In this way, each piece simultaneously becomes a history and an anti-history, or, more exactly, a history deconstructed.
Rob Matthews, Adam, friend. The awkward nature with which Adam holds the turntable sums up the difficult nature of his life as a songwriter in Nashville. Graphite on paper, 2007
Rob Matthews explores faith and spirituality, personal identity, and his southern roots in meticulously detailed graphite drawings. The portraits featured here depict members of the artist’s family and many of his friends. The objects they hold remind us of medieval saints’ attributes, but brought solidly to earth. Matthews asks his subjects to choose a meaningful object. He then spends up to sixty hours on each likeness, working from record photographs made under a bright light, which increases the sense of quiet drama in each portrait. Matthews asks his subjects to think of nothing while he records their visages, adding to the contemplative, meditative tone of the works.
Adam Chapman, Diagram of Isolated Moments Forming a Memory, 2008–9
In perpetual animation, the artist’s lines and patches of color project against a sheet of archival paper, which rests between the screen and the LED illumination, tying these works firmly to a long history of drawing. Each single-portrait work, identified by the name of the subject, combines the tonality and contours of three sketches of the sitter, the elements of which continually reformulate themselves. The central composition, Diagram of Isolated Moments Forming a Memory, layers all 150 portrait images of fifty different subjects, rendering a world of friends and family.