We are pleased to welcome Chicagoland art therapist and portrait artist Anthony Porter as the next to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. His show Civil Rights (The 1960s) is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library where you can catch it through January 2. Influenced by his studies at the School of the Art Institute, Porter’s exhibit features two dozen imaginative portraits of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and the Kennedys. You can meet Mr. Porter at a closing reception on Tuesday, December 29th at 7 pm, and make sure to visit Off the Shelf later in the month for a featured interview with the artist himself. Stay tuned.
Pictures From a Drawer: Prison and the Art of Portraiture by Bruce Jackson
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and paging through this simple yet riveting book breathes a powerful new breath of truth into the tired old adage. The book is comprised of old prisoner identification photographs of inmates housed in Arkansas’ Cummins prison during the first half of the 20th Century. Writer, photographer, and filmmaker Bruce Jackson discovered the faded photos in a drawer in 1975, and these many years later using today’s advanced photo restoration technology he has restored the images and presents them here in large, portrait sized prints. The tiny mug shots he found were originally taken as prisoners entered or exited the prison system, but Jackson says, “I always wanted to make them big. The whole purpose of photographs like this is to make people small, to make people part of a bureaucratic dossier. They’re nameless.”
But Jackson has done powerfully right by the subjects here–they still remain nameless, but he has restored to them some of their humanity and their dignity. And to look upon their inscrutable faces and to return the stares of these long vanished human beings is to be sucked into a dark and teeming well of human emotion, surrounded by every permutation of grief, anger, fear, defeat, and defiance imaginable. These photographs are haunting and absolutely mesmerizing, capturing not just visible light on the film’s emulsion, but also burning the lives and stories of these lost individuals onto the images.