Saturday, November 13, 2010

Face Forward

On the first Thursday of November, the Orlando Museum of Art hosted a group exhibition called Face Forward. Every first Thursday the small gallery next to the lobby is opened to a themed group show. The work in Face Forward was predictably mostly portraits. I arrived early so I could case the space and decide where I wanted to sketch. In one corner, Paul Austin Sanders began playing guitar. The opposite corner is what finally caught my eye. Ashli Szymanski and Sarah Okun from CSStudios, were arranging makeup and foam latex masks. They had to duck tape down some plastic to protect the museum carpeting. Ashli cut off lengths of tape and handed them to Sarah who crawled under the table to tape the edge of the plastic. Facetiously Sarah said, "You are getting better at that Sarah." Sarah replied, "Thank you, I went to school for it." A custom blood red mask was glaring out with his face chiseled and skeletal. The model for the night, Jess D.P., arrived with a large backpack full of dresses. After much discussion, the black dress with purple trim and lapels was chosen. Black boots with plenty of buckles completed the ensemble.

As soon as the latex mask was placed on the models face, I began to sketch. They were planning to turn her into a very creepy porcelain doll. The model was beautiful but with the mask her features became swollen and strange. A long time was spent getting the edge of the mask to flow seamlessly into her skin. The model held the small dish of latex or glue that held the mask in place. A young girl complimented my sketch and then sat and watched the makeup transformation transfixed. After she finished her plate of food from Cafe Tu Tu Tango, she started to squirm.

As I was putting the last of the watercolor washes down, they started spreading white make up all over the model's face, neck, chest and arms. The transformation was almost complete. By now the museum was packed. Allison Stevens was offering Shipyard beer in the main gallery and we spoke for a while about the new brewery coming to town. I am hoping to do sketches as the brewery takes shape. I spoke to Pam Treadwell who had several pieces in the show. She explained that one image had been achieved by pouring chocolate on her son's girlfriend's face and watching how it dripped over her features. In the painting the girl looked like she didn't enjoy the process. Anna McCambridge announced she is now engaged to Marabou Thomas. So much to celebrate!

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: