Jackie Nickerson

Santa Barbara Museum of Art


June 2 - September 16, 2012

1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA.
Open Tuesday - Sunday 11 am to 5 pm.

Countless exhibitions and endless pages in art history books have been devoted to the genre of portraiture, because faces transcend time, culture, and geography and speak directly to human desires, fears, and hopes. Since the discovery of photography in 1839, the photographic portrait as fine art has evolved dramatically.

What does a portrait reveal? Does the subject portray the person's real self or betray things about the self? In his last major work, Camera Lucida, French theorist Roland Barthes confessed, "Once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in the process of posing, I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image." Photographers and sitters cooperate, collude, and sometimes collide in the creation of a portrait. Yet, despite both the message the photographer aims to portray and the image the sitter chooses to betray, the true control resides with the viewer, who ultimately interprets the photograph.

This exhibition explores the endlessly interesting terrain of the portrait in over 100 photographs, drawn mainly from the permanent collection, that reveal an infinite range of human complexities and contradictory states of heart and mind. Organized into nine distinct groups, each section reflects a different conceptual approach and explores the shifting negotiation of control from the person behind the camera to the one in front of the camera and, finally, to the viewer.