Among the art and photographic images I’ve been collecting online, I’ve run across a number of arresting portraits, mostly by artists new to me. I will write last of the collage that heads the post, as I want to note two others first.

Ferdinand Hodler‘s painting of a face in A Troubled Soul formed the basis of the first of my attempt at “face” collages, with Mario Puccini‘s Fortress Barges exchanging color for the original’s black coat and hat. Hodler’s personal story makes clear he knew how a troubled soul felt, and certainly it shows in this extraordinary face. The Swiss Hodler (1853-1918) and Italian Puccini (1869-1920) were roughly contemporaries, yet their painting styles could not be more different (or so it seemed to me). Somehow, though, the two paintings seemed allied enough in color and line to try and combine into a single collage.

The second extraordinary face was that of Émile Bernard‘s grandmother, in an 1887 painting of her about which the van Gogh Museum has this to say:

“Bernard’s grandmother was in mourning when he painted her. She had just lost her husband. She had come to live with the artist’s family in Asnières and often posed for him. Her apparently arrogant expression is due simply to the artist’s viewpoint. Because Bernard was sitting slightly lower, she appears to be looking down on us. Her closed eye was blind.

“Van Gogh swapped one of his own self-portraits for this painting. He was full of praise for it. Later, he wrote to Bernard how moving he found its air of steady self-assurance. ‘You’ve never been closer to Rembrandt, my dear chap.’” (cite)

I combined her face and a bit of the original painting’s wallpaper with a backdrop from Gaughin’s Still life of onions and pigeons and room interior in Copenhagen (1885) and a pear and two lemons from Luigi Lucioni‘s Yellow and Brown (1981). It is astounding to me how powerful her face remains, even in the face of collagic desecration.

Turning back to the collage at the head of the post, I have been wanting for some time to incorporate Monika Geilsdorf‘s remarkable 1976 self-portrait into a collage, waiting for inspiration to strike. Gerrit Dou‘s Scholar Sharpening His Quill (c1632-1635) provoked me into action, whether wise or not. The backdrop is from Auguste Herbin‘s Roses (1926).

When I look at this collage, I think about how tumultuous 2023 is likely to be. As he sharpens his quill, what is he thinking? As she looks out, her gaze steady and unyielding, what does she see?

If 2023 is a good year, it will be due to courageous women like Lisa Selin Davis, to whom I am going to give the last word, from her close of year post, “Celebrating 4,000 Subscribers and an Auspicious End to an Amazing Year.”

“My goal was relatively modest: I wanted to diversify the mainstream media narrative. I wanted reporters to talk to those who’d been hurt, and not just those who’d been helped, by what is euphemistically called gender-affirming care. I wanted to report those nuanced stories myself in the major outlets I worked for. I wanted families, educators, and clinicians to have all the information so that, together, they could make the best possible decisions for their kids. And most of all, I wanted people to understand that childhood or adolescent gender nonconformity isn’t predictive of any one outcome, and that gender roles affect all children, and that we can work together to de-emphasize gender in children’s material and psychic worlds. . . .

“But there’s still so far to go, especially at The New York Times, which is arguably the most important media outlet we have, and which communicates to other outlets what’s acceptable to say—Reuters’ bravery, aside. They’ve published pieces in the opinion section lately that contribute to polarization around and misunderstandings of this issue, including a piece asserting that Louisa May Alcott, patron saint of tomboys everywhere, was really a transgender man, and another piece, conflating the horrifying ways that Proud Boys have been terrorizing people at Pride events and Drag Queen Story Hours with objecting to gender indoctrination in school. . . .

“I want to thank the hundreds of people who’ve shared their stories with me, who’ve let me into their worlds. I am doing all I can to share these stories with a wider audience, and I have high hopes for 2023 in that regard. I want to thank those who’ve respectfully disagreed with me, who’ve challenged and informed me and help me craft better arguments. I have high hopes for 2023 in that regard, too. I hope it’s the year of both peace and truth, if it’s at all possible for those things to co-exist.” [cite]

I hope so, too. Toward that end, please subscribe to Lisa’s Substack, Broadview, and if you can, get a paid subscription. Every paid subscription will help to assure her rational, eloquent words get as wide a reach as possible in the coming year.

2 thoughts on “Faces

  1. Curt Barnes

    What a diverse post this is, with a lot of sensory and mental stimuli, Sue! This last mention of Lisa Davis reminds me of an observation I remember making more than 40 years ago (OK, I’m old). After a party, mainly populated by artists in NYC, I reflected that so many of the men seemed more “sensitive” than the national norm and so many of the women, more confidently assertive than a comparable norm. Then it occurred to me that these were merely individuals who had escaped or transcended the cultural stereotypes to which the rest of society usually conformed—in other words, they were just FOLKS. Maybe I was revealing my small-town upbringing or maybe as artists they really had escaped the usual sexual stereotypes, but in any case I was very pleased to be in their company, avant-garde or not.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Well, Curt, for me, your observations about men and women and norms are priceless . . .but perhaps that is also because, OK I am also old . . . and just FOLKS!

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