Welcome to the art project, Fruits of the sun (for all the unknowns). Throughout summer 2017 I hosted pop-up portrait drawing sessions at locations around Portland, inviting participants to sign-up as live models. In exchange for sitting for a 20 minute session I gave each participant a $10 farmer's market token or grocery store gift card. Participants did not keep the drawings, as I told them they were ephemeral objects, but I did want to recognize the gift of their time, presence and image and acknowledge my personal and professional privilege in the exchange.
I made sixty seven 11x17 inch portraits. This project idea came to be after I attended a panel discussion about art and activism. The main question I left with was how can I cultivate empathy through art making? This is a question fraught with potential missteps and traps, but it is also one that I believe could use critical examination. As a white, female artist I did not want to exert my power over participants, but hoped to open up a dialogue around ways art can be a tool for connection. Almost none of the participants had had their portrait represented by an artist before this time. I had many conversations with them about the historical privileges around representation in art. I am deeply appreciative of each participant and the time that we spent together.
This project was an attempt to get out of my studio and comfort zone as an introvert. By observing and recording the faces that exist in the world around me I sought to connect on a new level to my fellow Portlanders. What do these faces say? Are they haggard, youthful, nervous? How can I express our common humanity through art mediums? Is the drawing secondary to the interaction? The drawings were made with handmade paper embedded with various types of seeds. On Thursday August 3rd I exhibited all the drawings at the Portland Art Museum for a one night pop-up exhibition. The drawings were planted in partnership with the Urban Farm Collective at their Fargo Food Forest Location on Friday, September 15th. At the Food Forest the paper acted as fertilizer for the seeds, and the drawings decayed.
I hope that by making ephemeral objects that I can encourage viewers to think about the fragility of life and that decay can lead to new growth, transformation and possibility. By letting go of the physical object into which I put my labor I am focusing on the activity of art-making. Documenting and sharing the project online is a way for the images to live on beyond their physical form. Some of the questions I asked myself around this work are - How can I shift my work to question the commodification of art objects and people? What is my relationship to the value of labor (especially in relation to art making)? How can my work act as a catalyst to connect and foster community?
As you navigate through the blog entries on the website you can view all of the portraits and most of the models who participated (not everyone wanted to be documented), and get a glimpse into the process of making the project come to life.