Something to remember the next time you throw out that old brush. Chinese-American artist Rebecca Szeto paints portraits of women on old paintbrush handles, and she’s been doing this since 1999. Why, you ask?
Because she sees stories in them, perhaps. In their solemn eyes and pursed lips. And she’s retelling those stories through the medium of paintbrush on paintbrush.
“I am interested in things that fall between the cracks of place and language,” says Szeto.
“From the first woman to graduate with a degree in architecture from MIT to a Chibok schoolgirl kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, or an anonymous face lifted from a 17th century Baroque painting, each portrait presents the face of a woman who has come in and out of focus throughout history,” writes Christopher Jobson.
Take a look:
“These works play with notions of re-forming beauty and value. I use humble, end-of-life materials inspired by my experience as a faux finisher and love for art history. The paintbrush is self-referential, acting as subject, object and action,” says Szeto.
“The slow and repetitive pace of whittling allows me time to reflect more directly on the idiosyncrasies of each individual brush. The action of whittling serves as a metaphor for reducing something to its core value or essence. These works pay homage to a sensibility and vitality found in Old Masters’ works.”
“My latest edition of Paintbrush Portraits highlighting lost, obscure and powerful stories of women across history and geography. These lady-like portraits are a playful strategy I use to draw the viewer into a more refined conversation about the nature of the work – in slowing down and observing the ordinary, however small, the most profound things are discovered.”
“Play and chance are integral parts of my process; they’re a way for me to detach from preconceived ideas about the materials so I can freely explore their inherent qualities and investigate their deeper implications. The results are oftentimes unpredictable and quietly playful. As an artist, I sometimes find my job is one of the Infringer or Under-miner: encroaching on boundaries and mining for the essence below the surface of things.”
Catch the San Francisco artist’s work as part of an exhibition titled Bizarre Bizarre curated by Michael Arcega this July 2017.