Artists Devise Self-Portraits for the Inside Out Project

In the 21st century, people like to consider themselves global citizens, which means they are aware of cultures worldwide. Although we may not all speak the same language, the one language that unites all is art.

Anonymous artist JR achieved this idea of a global art project through a shared visual communication on March 2nd, 2011 when he won a TED prize. Founding the Inside Out Project, JR was inspired by his personal, large-format street “pastings.” He began creating them in Paris in 2006. He offers no explanation for his work but leaves a sense of space for there to be a unique encounter between the subject and protagonist and the passerby/interpreter. A question he hopes to pose through his project is: “Can art change the world? Maybe we should change the question: Can art change people’s lives?”

Since, Inside Out has traveled from Ecuador to Nepal, from Mexico to Palestine, inspiring group action through the installation of large scale self-portraits. JR, as well as artists involved, are addressing themes of hope, diversity, gender-based violence, and climate change. His work aims to make people take a stand for what they believe in.

The Inside Out Project yields messages of personal identity in pieces of artistic work. Participants are challenged to use black-and-white photographic portraits to discover, reveal, and share the untold stories and images of people around them. They’re digitally uploaded and then made into posters, which are then sent back to the project’s co-creators to display within their communities.

Led by Diane Hause—of 2TEN Haustudio in Ivanhoe, NC—Wimingtonians have banded together to participate in JR’s project. “With 30 participating NC artists, there are two components of this exhibit,” Hause explains. “One is composed of 36” x 53” black-and-white photographs of the participating artists being wheat-pasted to trees surrounding the gallery, and it is these photos which are part of the global Inside Out project. The second exhibit consists of the 30 artists exhibiting self-portraits inside the gallery that they have created in various media.”

Participating artists include: Kinga Baransky, Benjamin Billingsley, Michelle Connolly, MJ Cunningham, Elizabeth Darrow, Robert Ely, Sharon Ely, Bonnie England, Virginia Wright-Frierson, Virginia Gibbons, Kristin Gibson, Mia Hankins, Diane Hause, Janette Hopper, Fritzi Huber Saben Kane, Anne Kurowski Bob Kurowski, Marsha McKee, Leslie Pearson, Abby Spangel Perry, Elaine Reed, Colleen Ringrose, Dick Roberts, Vicky Smith, Barbara Squires, Pam Toll, Gayle Tustin, Richard Whitaker and Ruth Whitaker.

“More often than not, artists work in isolation in studios away from the general public eye and often each other,” Hasue says. “This gesture will bring artists together to create outdoors in an expression of esprit de corps! Not only is this an opportunity to share in a group effort and experience, it will put an actual and literal face to each artist while creating a visible context to a group of known working artists.”

Local artists Michelle Connolly and Janette Hopper both found the experience an exceptional and unique happening. It bonds artists beyond admirers of each other’s work. “The exhibition celebrates the wider art community,” Connolly says. “We are very grateful to Diane Hause and her commitment to bringing artists together.”

Connolly’s self-portrait undertakes an internal representation rather than a physical one. “[It’s about my] personal creative energy and connection with people and nature instead of a true likeness,” she explains. “It’s a primitive response that follows a recent body of work—the Silver Linings series. I wanted the painting to express the golden, positive feeling that I have from being an artist.”

In contrast to Connolly’s introspective portrait, Janette Hopper went for a more traditional artistic representation. Like Rembrandt, Hopper always imagined she would do a self-portrait a year but found she never had the time. In creating her piece for this exhibition, she wanted truthfulness to reign.

“It’s hard to look at yourself and paint what you see there,” she divulges. “The wrinkles are distracting from the form, but I tried to paint what I saw and be honest about that. For me self-portraits are always intense, because I have to concentrate so hard to translate myself to canvas. I wanted this portrait to be funny, but it turned out rather intense.”

Depicting herself wearing her favorite color, green, and adored in a burgundy hat, Hopper notes the photographic portraits pasted to the trees revive our connection and our primal unity with nature. “What’s so incredible about the larger scope of this project is connection to artists all over the country and the world,” Hopper says “Being an artist and being in contact with other creative folks all over the globe—what could be more important?”

The exhibition will have an opening reception on Sunday, May 25 and will be on display through May 31st.
May 20, 2014

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