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Félix de la Concha: Private Portraits / Public Conversations

Hood Quarterly, spring/summer 2009
Karen Miller, Exhibitions and Programs Coordinator

The Hood Museum of Art has, in recent years, been engaged in an effort to expand its reach across campus and to the broader community. Toward this end, a number of artworks have been placed on the Dartmouth campus, and in 2007 a major project by Chinese artist Wenda Gu was installed at Baker Library. In keeping with the museum’s interest in public art, the Hood commissioned Félix de la Concha to paint the portraits of fifty-one people from the Dartmouth and larger Upper Valley communities as part of the Dartmouth Centers Forum theme for the 2008–10 academic years, “Conflict and Reconciliation.”

Known primarily for his paintings of architectural landscapes, many produced as series in which he explores the idea of time, de la Concha began to paint portraits in 2005, including a series of Spanish cultural figures that was exhibited in Madrid during spring 2008. Recently, he has also completed a series of portraits and conversations with children and adults from the Dominican Republic, and is working on a project with Holocaust survivors. A native of Spain, de la Concha has lived in Lyme, New Hampshire, for several years, and he became an American citizen this fall.

The fifty-one portrait sitters in the Hood’s commission were suggested for participation by numerous people on the basis of the sitters’ life experiences as they related to this theme; they have all encountered conflict in their lives and have made—or are making—the journey toward reconciliation. The potential subjects of inquiry included an array of personal, societal, and global conflicts. During each two-hour portrait session, de la Concha interviewed the sitter while audio- and videotaping the entire experience. The artist added video to the Hood project as a means of reconstructing, in real time, the evolution of the sessions. Thus, “portrait” here comprises painted representation, spoken narrative, and a visual recording of the interaction between artist and subject—a multidimensional representation of an encounter that is intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally charged. Félix de la Concha: Private Portraits / Public Conversations will be exhibited at the Hood Museum from April 4 through September 27, 2009, with a gala opening planned for Friday, May 8.

This project was undertaken in conjunction with the Dartmouth Centers Forum (DCF), a collaborative humanities alliance on the Dartmouth campus whose members include the Allwin Initiative for Corporate Citizenship, Dickey Center, Rockefeller Center, Ethics Institute, Institute for Security, Technology, and Society, Hood Museum of Art, Hopkins Center, Leslie Center for the Humanities, Tucker Foundation, and Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning. DCF annually chooses a theme for its campus-wide programming. (To learn more about DCF and the 2008-10 theme, visit their website.)

See the 51 portraits from the series.

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