Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

What's On View at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum

New London, Connecticut

Where can you see portraits of dogs, Michael Jackson, hockey players, an old woman, and a woman with Christmas bows on her shoes, all at once? If you guessed New London's Lyman Allyn Art Museum, you are correct!

Founded in 1932, the museum is home to an extensive collection of 18th – 20th century American art. This summer, the Lyman Allyn has several new exhibitions on display, including one on the diverse genre of portraiture.

On view through September 18, 2011, Face Off: Portraits by Contemporary Artists has a little something for everyone. The show examines the reemergence of portraiture, originally a means for the rich and royal to portray themselves at their finest: well-dressed and without a wrinkle. The genre has taken many forms throughout history, and standards of dress and physical appearance have relaxed over time.

Sports fans will also know that “face off” is a hockey term used to describe the beginning of play. Players from opposing teams line up across from one another, the puck in the middle, waiting for the whistle to blow. In a similar way, visitors to this exhibition find themselves face-to-face with another portrait. What lies between the viewer and the portrait is an experience, emotion, or memory that shapes their initial and unique reaction. In honor of the exhibit title, one room of the exhibition features a series of George Kalinsky’s hockey photographs, captured during his time as the official photographer at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Eye-On by William Wegman (1994). Color Polaroid. Courtesy William Wegman

Dog lovers will delight in the gallery of William Wegman’s portraits of his dogs. Trained as a painter, Wegman is known today for his striking photographs of his Weimaraners, often posed as fashion models. Their grey, neutral coats and blank stares make the dogs ideal fashionistas. Although Wegman’s subjects are not human, they are able to portray some of the same qualities and universal emotions that we see in each other each and every day.

Self Portrait by Janet Shafner. No date. Oil on canvas.

Another piece on view is Self Portrait by Janet Shafner, seen above. Although Shafner typically paints biblical images, here she looks inward, documenting her own process of aging. A sliver of the artist, born in 1931, is visible in the center of the canvas. Shafner is looking straight at the viewer, not afraid to confront the realities of old age, yet she also seems to be hiding. The soft colors and muted background ensure that your gaze rests on the woman’s face.

Self-Portrait by Chuck Close (2000) Published by Pace Editions, Inc. 111 color silkscreen. Edition of 80. Courtesy Pace Editions, Inc.

Chuck Close is an acclaimed photographer, painter, and printmaker who has spent the majority of his career focused on portraiture and self-portraits, such as the one above. His prints are typically very labor-intensive. Close works in photorealism, a style that emerged in the late 1960s and early 70s and involves painting directly from a photograph in a highly realistic style. Close’s work also ventures into abstraction, as his acclaimed fingerprint portraits look realistic from far away but dissolve into a series of discrete fingerprints when viewed up close.

Ma Petite Kumquat by Barkley L. Hendricks (1983) Oil, acrylic, white gold and silver leaf on linen canvas. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC

Ma Petite Kumquat is a portrait of the artist’s wife. Hendricks depicts his wife standing still and with her eyes closed, leaving the viewer to notice the interesting details of her outfit: the Christmas bows on her shoes, the bowtie around her neck, the green sash, her leg warmers. Many of Hendrick’s portraits are life-size---Ma Petite Kumquat is six feet tall---and depict subjects with a striking sense of style or attitude---or both.

Lyman Allyn Art Museum
625 Williams Street
New London, Connecticut 06320

For more information about Face Off and other exhibits at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, please visit the museum's website. Please visit the Blue Star Museum website for more information about the program and to find participating museums.

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