YOUR PORTRAIT HERE: Portraits from Purgatory
Essay by B.R. Gilbert

Personal portraiture traditionally has been the province of the privileged and the powerful: of princes, popes and politicians. To be sure, the majority of formal portraits adorning the world’s great museums consists of representations of
social elites. Others are slice-of-life works chronicling the everyday affairs of ordinary citizens in domestic or occupational settings ranging throughout a broad spectrum of historical periods.

Whether considered as a medium of personal commemoration, or as a window on human history, portraiture acts both as a modality for psychological insight and as socio-historical document. At times highly staged, even painfully
contrived, other times capturing unguarded moments marked by spontaneity and ingenuous candor, portraits have served for centuries as calibrators of character traits, psychological states and prevailing social customs and conditions.

Sharing these functions and attributes is an aesthetic tributary of mainstream portraiture which runs parallel to it. This is the realm of found portraits - portraits frequently dealing with anonymous sitters and executed by little known or unknown creators, and culled from such oblivious sources as flea markets, thrift stores, and even garbage bins. Your Picture here: Portraits from Purgatory is a fist-of-its-kind compilation of canvases from this obscure pictorial realm. The engrossing compositions comprising this signal exhibition display all the features of their exalted counterparts. They are marked by the same earnestness and sincerity. Likenesses of friends and relatives, public personalities and family pets, of bakers, bankers, clowns and tramps, these humble creations exhibit truths which belie their naive origins. Marked by humor, pathos, whimsy and poginancy, their unheralded creators might justly boast, along with Paul Klee, that “my human faces are truer than the real ones”.

Delving beneath surface appearance to reveal sub-dermal verities every bit as profound as those divined by Sargent or Bachardy, the artists of Your Picture here have as much to say about the invisible as about the visible, leaving viewers with a haunting aftertaste of secrets shared and souls bared. But perhaps most significantly, these portraits without pedigree constitute a veritable counter-genre unto themselves. Innately low-brow and falling outside the conventional boundaries of academic and curatorial sanction, they form a vital part of a burgeoning underground aesthetic, and call for the legitimization of an all-but-neglected category in the taxonomy of postmodernism.