Carol Kino


is located at 547 West 27 Street, betw 10 & 11 Ave, on the Third Floor 547 West 27 Street Third Floor New York NY 10001

Carol Kino Observes Gwen Hardie

Soon after I met Gwen at the Yaddo artists’ colony last summer, she persuaded me to sit for my portrait–a three-hour process that had a surprising result.  Even though Gwen had chosen to paint only a tiny portion of my face–the rectangle bounded by my eyes and mouth–she had rendered an amazing likeness.  Her painted version of me, I felt, looked even more like me than I do myself.

This turned out to be the first of many portraits Gwen painted that summer.  Before long, it was easy to spot the glint in her eye and the focused attention that usually preceded her invitation to pose.  Almost every day, I visited her studio to see what had happened within its confines.  Gradually, a community of our friends, brought to life with the most minimal aspects of their features, began to populate her walls.

On the days Gwen wasn’t painting us, she continued working on a much longer-running project: self-portraits that investigate details of her own face, blown up to a relatively monumental size.  Whereas the small portraits use a sliver of a person to distill a singular likeness, here the artist seems to be using her more intimate knowledge of her own features to summon up a larger, more universal world.

These paintings generally begin with a single element–a blue eye, the tip of the nose, the crevasse above the upper lip.  The artist paints them while leaning over to gaze at herself in the mirror.  The shapes’ boundaries can be precise or blurry, and the textures, porous or silky–it all depends on where the light falls and how she chooses to focus her gaze.

Sometimes, the feature is easy to recognize; other times it can suggest a portion of the body; often, its identity becomes so abstracted that one’s attention turns to the paint and brushstrokes themselves. These “self”-less self-portraits seem to mirror the dissolving boundaries we seek when we reach for others, and maybe even the limitless realms we sense within ourselves.

Carol Kino is a contributing editor at Art & Auction and her writing on art often appears in the New York Times.  She has also written frequently for Art in America, Bloomberg News, Town & Country, and others, and is now at work on the career monograph of British artist Bridget Riley.

“Face-Carol, 07.29.05”, 10 x 8 inches

(Catalog “Gwen Hardie Face Paintings 2005” page 7)

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