Traditional Portraits Are Reimagined in an Exploration of Concealment and Identity by Shawn Huckins

Traditional Portraits Are Reimagined in an Exploration of Concealment and Identity by Shawn Huckins

“The Artist’s Wardrobe, Mary Greene (after Copley)” (2022). All images © Shawn Huckins, shared with permission

A new series of paintings by New Hampshire-based artist Shawn Huckins (previously) proposes thinking about how we wear clothing and textiles in a fresh light. Dirty Laundry continues the artist’s interest in re-interpreting 18th- and 19th-Century European portraiture, an artistic tradition steeped in symbolism and subtle commentary about wealth and class. The garments donned by the subjects of painters like John Singleton Copley or Adriaen van der Werff reflected their status and sense of self through apparel and accessories. Jean-Léon Gérôme’s depiction of a Bashi-Bazouk, a soldier of the Ottoman Empire, is a prescient comment on the nature of clothes and uniform, as those enlisted were often unpaid and dressed in a haphazard mix of pieces they acquired while on the march.

Huckins puts a playful, contemporary twist on the notion of expressing one’s identity through fabric by obscuring his subjects’ faces almost entirely, prompting the viewer to consider what it means to be cloaked or exposed. The artist recreated the compositions in the studio by draping a model with a variety of garments, mimicking the direction and temperature of the light in the original works in acrylic paint.

With their faces covered completely, the sitters are identified only through objects such as a string of pearls, a beloved dog, or a handful of fruit. Huckins says in a statement that “anything more that might be known about these people remains hidden beneath piles of cloth and clothing so ubiquitous it could be our own.” Utilizing modern fabrics like buffalo plaid or gingham, the artist considers how we all dress to convey information about ourselves.

Dirty Laundry is also the title of the artist’s upcoming solo exhibition with Duran Mashaal Gallery in Montréal, which opens on June 2. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. (via Creative Boom)

 

“Various Fabrics, Bashi-Bazouk (after Gerome)” (2022)

“Red and Black, Mrs. Freeman Flower (after Highmore)” (2022)

“Pattern No. 4, Winslow Warren (after Copley)” (2022)

“Yellow and Blue, Portrait of A Lady (after Hudson)” (2022)

“Various Fabrics, Margareta Rees (after van der Werff)” (2022)

“Various Fabrics, John Park with Dog (after Stuart)” (2022)

“American Portrait, Elizabeth Murray (after Copley)” (2022)

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