By Tom Wachunas
“Evert portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” –Oscar Wilde
“Ah! Portraiture, portraiture with the thought, the soul of the model in it, that is what I think must come.” –Vincent van Gogh
EXHIBIT: Works from 50 Portraits by Heather Bullach at Malone University Fountain Gallery, located in the Johnson Center for Worship and the Fine Arts, 2600 Cleveland Avenue NW. On view Mondays through Fridays during regular business hours THROUGH AUGUST 9, 2013.
Heather Bryson, Gallery Curator at Malone University, was kind enough to send me the press release on this show of portrait studies by Heather Bullach (as well as the concurrent Adjunct Faculty Exhibit, which will be the subject of a post here in the near future). The following is reprinted from that release:
Fountain Gallery will feature Works from 50 Portraits by Heather Bullach from May 6th through August 9th. The exhibit shows pencil and watercolor studies from Heather, a Malone University alumnus (2011), who earned her bachelors degree in art with emphases in painting, drawing, and graphic design. The studies are for a series of 50 finished oil portraits of individuals who have been influential within the Canton Arts District on which Heather is currently working. The portraits will debut in an exhibition at Translations Art Gallery in February of 2014. Her portraits are characterized by high attention to detail, both in capturing the likeness and the personality of the subject. Her awards include the Outstanding Senior in Visual Arts from Malone University, the Mary Ellen McFadden Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts, and The Ohio Watercolor Society 2010 Scholarship. She currently resides in Dalton, Ohio. More information on Heather and her work can be found at http://www.heatherbullach.com.
This show of 18 pencil drawings and watercolors is, then, an especially lively hint of things to come. To some extent it reminds me of being sated with tantalizing appetizers long before the main course is served.
These are indeed marvelous studies. They’re a strong witness to Bullach’s uncanny ability at observing and mapping detail (based on photographs of her subjects) - i.e., drawing on a surface with sure-handed fluidity. Yet at the same time she draws out that ineffable something which gives us the sense we are encountering real personhood, even as we may not personally know the people depicted.
That said, I have the advantage of having met and spoken with all of the individuals shown here, some on many occasions over the past several years, and have come to greatly appreciate the essence of their energies - their contributions to and influence on the Canton Arts District. In this context, I’ve always found the cliché of how well a subject’s character or spirit is “captured” by the artist to be an inadequate measure of a portrait’s quality. The best ones release that spirit. I can tell you with confidence that the samples presented in this exhibit do exactly that.
And even at this rudimentary point in her process of developing finished oil portraits, Bullach has mastered the cartography of personality.
PHOTOS: Top (clockwise from upper left) – Marcy Axelband, Elec Simon, Sarah Shumaker, Robb Hankins; Middle – Patrick Buckohr (left), Dan Kane; Bottom – Tim Belden (left), Craig Joseph