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Woman in a Ghunghat: ‘About Face’ Exhibition Portrays a Multifaceted Journey of Human Expression and Diversity

Woman in a Ghunghat: ‘About Face’ Exhibition Portrays a Multifaceted Journey of Human Expression and Diversity

  • Inspired by the vintage art form of portraiture, the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, Calif., collates the work of nearly 100 local and international artists.

I consider myself really fortunate to stumble upon the current exhibition ‘About Face’ at the Bedford Gallery in East Bay. The vintage art form of portraiture inspires the exhibit. It collates the work of nearly 100 local and international artists in a juried show to Walnut Creek in a show that has been in the works for more than a year. ‘About Face’ does not display detailed renaissance-style portraits but is very vivid, disparate and diverse, making it currently a relevant exhibit among all generations with the craze of ‘selfies” and “photo editing apps.” 

The human face is a window to the human psyche and the soul has served as an important part of human connection.  The curator Emilee Enders has raised the bar because work by one of the most acclaimed artists from the 1960s, Andy Warhol, is the centerpiece. Warhol shot hundreds of four-minute videos of various subjects, who were asked to hold perfectly still. Bedford Gallery has six of these works in a loop, including videos of poet Allen Ginsberg.  I was not familiar with this work having seen more of Warhol’s familiar pop art portraits in the museums and media. 

I was impressed by the quality and broad range of art submitted to this exhibit. From enigmatic faces carved in oranges in a bowl presented at the counter to the face covered in a cornucopia of fruit to a bright bespectacled image of a woman of color with a feathered hat that could have easily been borrowed from Frida Kahlo. The show stopper for me was titled ‘If it Wrinkles it Must be Real,’ depicting the face of an older woman, a tapestry with threads unraveling marking her wrinkles woven into the parchment of her face by important emotions paired with the milestones in her life: Joy. Guilt. Courage. Shame. Wisdom. Worry. Empathy. This could easily be every woman’s journey.  

The artist is Roz Ritter from Richmond, California. Also, Pallavi Sharma’s (In Memory of, 2014 from San Ramon)  featured a framed large portrait of an Indian woman in bridal red which we might see on display in our grandparents’ homes or in old havelis/movie sets. The difference was that this woman was in a ghunghat/veil, making her face invisible to the viewer’s eye. She was holding a typical steel thali with partitions containing curries, yogurt, roti, and appetizers and sweets. The photograph was garlanded with faux jasmine and rose garland reminiscent of a jaimala. 

I would have skipped this portrait had I seen it in a different setting but by the time I saw it, my mind had already opened to the richness and depth of the artists’ portrayal of faces. wide range of themes, including identity, emotion, cultural heritage, social issues, and personal journeys. So this one made me think a bit more. Was the artist just showing a traditional Indian woman or was she depicting that this woman was not valued for her face but for the food she cooked? 

I was impressed by the use of various mediums, styles, and textures like Phillips’s charcoal drawing of a young Black girl during the Great Depression and the face of a child with hieroglyphic images.  About Faces is a cyclorama of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and captivating narratives, from the weathered lines of an aged face to the bright eyes of a youth, and the pixelated innocence of a child’s smile. Each artwork offers a unique and resonant perspective on the human experience. From Marbie’s unusual painting Every Time interpreting the full human body using brightly colored shapes, the artists captured joy, sorrow, resilience, or vulnerability in their realistic, abstract and contemporary styles. 

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‘About Faces’ is on display at the Bedford Gallery, located at the  Lesher Center for the Arts in the vibrant Walnut Creek downtown. It is a compelling and immersive exhibition that celebrates the beauty and diversity of the human face. You can breeze in and out or linger at each “Face” captured through the lenses of various mediums, styles, and textures with an emphasis on age, gender, race, ethnicity, and the myriad of human expressions. I am certain that you will find at least one work that makes you stop in your tracks. Resonate with your own face, features and own story. About Face is a win-win for art enthusiasts in the Bay area and those seeking a deeper understanding of the human experience through the transformative power of portraiture. A great testament to the skills of the participating artists. 

With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

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