Theatrical Portraiture and Storytelling in Suraci

For the last installment in my “Must Sees” per gallery I’m covering the Suraci gallery. After listening to Stephen Garrison speak at his exhibition on Monday, I realized that the show is much more than animal heads in Renaissance garb. For one, all the pieces are like captured characters in frames with names. The custom made frames are in the shape of a domed window, like the viewer is only getting a glimpse into a life. Within the process of making the collection, the lore is chosen before the specific animal. In listing inspiration Garrison cited folklore, Shakespeare, religion like with Ra, Lewis Carroll like with Lapin blanc and Albrecht Durer like with Jean de l’Ours.

Jean de l’Ours

The space features 12 arched window framed portraits of anthropomorphic characters. Heads of birds, a cat, a cow, donkey, rabbit and so much more all with startlingly human hands. On top of the insane detail in the fur and feathers of the animals, the costuming and inanimate objects held are also worth staring at for a long time. Whether it’s the folds of draped fabric on Kitsune or the stitching on the costume of Morrigan the mastering of texture is evident.


Along with the portraits are origami sketches made after the portraits and to the left of the sketches, actual origami prototypes. All three are connected and tied to one of the 12 characters. For example, there’s the theatrical portrait of Reynard, but also the accompanying origami sketch in graphite and the physical paper origami.

 A very unique element of this collection is the fact that every portrait except two is considered to be “mixed media”. While two portraits are entirely made from paint and have tags that say “oil on panel”, the remaining ones are considered to be mixed media due to the usage of layered colored glazes. Also within the gallery is a provided artist statement that explains this process even further. What one of the benefits of glazing both the portraits and the graphite sketches has allowed for, is the elimination of glass on the outside of the frames. The art is still protected when shipped places and displayed in the gallery without the added cost of glass or glares. 

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