Monday, July 8, 2013

Portrait Project - 2 years later

It has been two years since the Portrait Project trip that took 17 days through 7 countries and 10 cities allowed me to meet over 120 people whom I drew, got to know (at least ten of whom I am still in touch with).

The guiding question that led me to undertake this journey was: how do we meet "hard-to-meet" people? That is, how do we meet the interesting people that rarely have the time to make it to a Couchsurfing meetup at a pub--the people we have 0.01% chance of striking up a conversation in a Metro? Or even in our own town?

The answer to my question was: take your talent and share it with another person in a public, open-ended space. Do this in such as way that your interaction creates something, like a sort of spiritual shared experience.

My talent is drawing. I've drawn since my youth, and even moonlighted as an illustrator for a time. Being self-taught, art gives me few boundaries or rules, and though my autodidact technique is often left wanting, in many ways this has brought me freedom.

So, I decided to use drawing to break the barrier (and reconstruct the bridge) between people in ways that alcohol and parties cannot. Drawing allowed me to make "events" out of my visits and it gave me an excuse to meet people and to allow them to champion an art project come to their part of the world. Drawing was the value-added "social glue" that proved to people that I wanted to have a different kind of experience with them, in their city.

Drawing in an on-demand, on-site, guerrila fashion gave me humility and showed me that human exchange seems innocent, yet carries a huge responsibility (of feedback, sharing, of stewardship of the human image). It proved to me that any artistic venture must consider the audience, and that representative art is as interactive as partner dancing. The fact of putting something on paper makes the link between artist and model (and situation) stronger than a photograph, and the consent given to this exchange is one not entered into lightly. This tour showed me that people consider the artist highly, almost to the point of wanting the artist to explain the world and all of its unknowns.