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Art As Social Inquiry by Theresa BrownGold

I look at social issues using art. As self-proclaimed documentary portrait painter, I pair large over-sized portraits with the personal histories of my subjects. The story of each subject is available by clicking on the picture of the portrait on the website. I am documenting the effects of people’s biases, opinions, actions and laws on the lives of others actually living a social issue. For example, my current topic of social inquiry looks at the way people living in the United States access healthcare.

The portraits I paint are large, expressionistic canvases, 40×30 inches. I have no interest in painting literal images of my subjects. First I listen, listen, listen, then intuitively express in the painted faces what I’ve heard. Flashes of blue or purple stand for skin tone. The colors in a head of hair could be an ad for Winsor Newton’s entire catalog of oil paints.The portrait stories range from paintings of people who have died because they could not access healthcare to those with corporate jobs who feel adequately insured. The project has unexpectedly morphed into a call to action.

I often take the portraits to my local congressman’s town hall meetings, Occupy events, conferences, churches and anywhere else I can give talks and/or to bear witness for the subjects of my paintings and the millions they represent.
Portrait by Theresa Browngold (2)
Portrait by Theresa Browngold (3)

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