The second in a series highlighting artists featured in Body of Work: New Perspectives on Figurative Painting, Broad Strokes presents the musings of portraitist Hannah Barrett. She explores the construction of gender in her collage-like paintings that inventively play with audience expectations. To see her work in person, be sure to visit Body of Work, the second edition of NMWA’s biennial Women to Watch exhibition series.
“Dame Critchley-Midgely and Admiral Ramsbotham are part of a series of fifteen tonal portraits, “The Secret Society,” exhibited in October 2007 at the Howard Yezerski Gallery. They are small scale oil portraits painted from collages I assembled from 19th century photographs. Each collage combines multiple subjects, so that each is a balance between my own fictional invention and authentic details from the 19th century sitters. The original studio photographs are in the collection of the Library of Congress.
I often use photographic source images to make the characters I imagine look more realistic. I always blend male and female images together so that my characters have an ambiguous gender open to a broad range of interpretations. Gender is a fact and a cultural construction that often limits the story of portraits to a stereotypical script. Through my use of fact and fiction, I try to engage the imagination in an alternative story.” –Hannah Barrett, July 2010