Friday, August 19, 2011


Teleportraiture is a series of oil portraits painted through videochat. I am a classically-trained portrait artist whose work has always been based around the intimacy generated during the interaction between painter and subject. The painting is artifact of a performance of relationship and conversation, mutual but asymmetrical observation. Unlike paintings from photos, these portraits capture a personality over time. Sometimes things occur like the mirror effect, where I have to put the expression on my face that my subject should have in the painting. Yet the resulting painting is still, choosing challenge over cubist adaptations.

I’ve grown up on the internet, communicating throught text, but in the past few years interacting face-to-face remotely has become commonplace. In videochat, the mirror effect is more explicit, as you’re always able to see yourself as the other sees you. You find yourself having to alter your face from the way people look at computers to how they look at people – yet the portrait artist often looks at people the way people look at computers. This toggling between performing and concentrating means that, more often than not, the absent, concentrating expression of the computer user will be depicted – if I allow it to be.

This project seeks to examine the tenuous, technology, strange intimacy, and charged emotions around communicating remotely, by making the archaic oil portraiture tradition site-unspecific and international in a way that, if anything, makes it more personalized. This differentiates it from the portrait-by-photo services made affordable by outsourcing. The ultimate images use the intermediary camera and compression to generate artifact artifacts. They are not supposed to look like they were done in person, but reflect their particular system of old and new technologies.

I have worked this way on three occasions prior to starting this campaign: once with deep romance, once with a stranger speaking another language, and once for a self-portrait. Teleportraiture in part examines the current trend toward erosion of online anonymity. In the course of the project I hope to see many faces I haven’t seen in person or ever before. Ultimately, my goal is always to make my subject look good, and give them a unique experience with a tangible result – the conceptual aspects will never supercede that. By making your backing part of this project specifically, you get to participate in a techno-social experiment marking a particular cultural moment in an oddly old-school way.

Your money buys you a portrait, images thereof, and videos of sessions, or goes toward a book, poster, and exhibition of the series. The backing structure is based around backers of the smallest amounts being able to sit in and watch the process. At the next level, you’ll get a pdf book and poster of every portrait. Mid-range backers actively contribute by sitting to have their portrait painted, and keep a scan, but I keep the painting. With the permission of the sitter, sessions will be recorded, and a little more money gets you the video. At a relatively low cost for oil portrait commissions, backerss can buy the painting. Even higher donations will keep lower backers from viewing the session, plus no limitations on time or size. I will continue to take commissions for these after the project funded through kickstarter is fulfilled. All backers receive an invitation to a preview reception of the exhibition of these works. The exhibition’s location is undetermined, but should be longer than a month in New York City in mid-2012, somewhere with wifi and computers for remote attendance and so I can keep painting teleportraits from the space.

I'm hoping to make 20-30 paintings over the course of 2 months. Sittings usually take about 3 hours. Most of the paintings I make through Teleportraiture will be between 8x10 inches and 12x16 inches. Usually, I charge $400 or more for a head and shoulders portrait. That means what I really want to raise is $8000. This is, at bare minimum, what your donation goes towards:

Studio rental 800

Electricity 100

Cable 100

Painting Supplies 300

Printing 300

Shipping 400

Frames 200

Exhibition space rental 2000

Exhibition ad/promo 500

Exhibition hardware and labor 300

TOTAL: 5000

With $3000 more, at least, though, I can rent the space for longer, invest in a bigger, better scanner, and provide a computer and projector for the opening. In fact, I'm looking for a good tech-friendly space for this, and if it's non-profit, that would be a huge help, as well.

Here's a 10-minute demo video in which I paint Lauren while discussing the project.

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