Self-portraits are risky.
“It’s a dangerous gamble,” said WB Eckert, whose “More and Less Than I Appear” took the blue ribbon for the annual Brushstroke exhibit “Inside Out.”
“Anyone who can tell how to read it can learn a lot about you,” the Paso Robles artist said.
Artists in the Oil, Pastel and Acrylic Group express images of themselves in the juried exhibit at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.
Eckert gives viewers a look at his inner and outer selves, with a skeleton holding a portrait of the man in the flesh. A bony hand clutches three paintbrushes, as three blindfolded crows huddle at its feet.
“I've always been interested in the big question of what’s life all about,” said Eckert, who said he’s fascinated by the human frame that carries around “this marvelous being” that isn’t really constrained, “as our mind can reach out.” The crows have no particular symbolism, he said, other than in Native American lore they are said to judge humans, thus the blindfolds.
Ellen Jewett expressed her image of herself entwined with that of her mother, who died young when Jewett was 10 years old.
“She always seemed so dramatic and beautiful to me,” said Jewett, who recalls her mother trying on gowns, dabbing Tabu on her neck, asking if she looked pretty.
Jewett admits to some of those traits herself. “I’ve always had this flair for drama,” the Los Osos resident said. Describing her work that earned second place, she said, “that could be me acting like some fabulous actress,” or the shadow could be her mother. “But they’re very integrated.”
Jewett, who appropriates images from magazines, then makes them her own by washing and scrubbing, adding paint and pen and ink, said she was elated her work earned the second-place award, as it was the riskiest piece she’d ever done. “I completely ruined it and brought it back to life again.”
When Sheryl Daane Chesnut chose a painting to enter in the exhibit, she didn’t realize that the theme was self-portraiture. As the judge, Azusa resident Guy Kinnear, was none the wiser, he selected “Oceans of Heather” for the third-place award.
The slender figure, in shadowy semi-profile, slightly resembles Chesnut, although “I'm really not that forlorn,” the San Luis Obispo resident said. A former commercial artist, Chesnut has only been showing her post impressionistic paintings for a couple of years. Although she loves the shape of the human figure, she often keeps facial features vague, allowing viewers to project their own images. “You kind of see something different each time.”
Page Graeber took honorable mention for her mixed media “Green Awakening,” and Ken Christensen an honorable mention for his oil, “The Artist and His Creation.”
While the show’s theme is self portraiture, Eckert believes that ultimately the only thing viewers see are aspects of themselves that are, he hopes, surprising, magical, mysterious. “A painting is like a mirror.”