Press Releases

Invitation to Stare: Photographic Portraits

For Release: January 2014

Photographers have used cameras to explore the faces of friends, loved ones, passing strangers, cultural icons and themselves since the nineteenth century beginnings of photography. With digital technology and ‘selfies’ permeating our culture, the sea of faces is expanding. Often intended to document an individual, do these portraits tell us more about the sitter or the person behind the lens?

Invitation to Stare: Photographic Portraits, on view through June 1, 2014, in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery, features recent acquisitions exhibited for the first time and collection favorites in a new context.
Drawn primarily from the museum’s collection, this exhibition invites viewers to not only discover and imagine the interpersonal relationships within the photographs, but also to consider how we, as viewers, interact with the images.

A portrait is a record of both a moment and a relationship. The photographer can simply document a human face, illustrate love for a spouse or use the camera to meet a stranger. Invitation to Stare presents 32 works by 26 artists working from the early twentieth century to the present. Their subjects range from loved ones to strangers on the street to celebrities, and sometimes themselves. The selection of photographs on view in the exhibition represents a variety of approaches photographers use in creating intimate portraits.

The works of Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, Michael Disfarmer, Vivian Maier, Andrea Modica, Abe Frajndlich, Angelo Merendino, Jen Davis and others entice viewers to consider the relationship between artist and subject as we gaze at the people in the photographs. Questions of intimacy, comfort level and collaboration arise.

August Sander’s 85-year old portrait of painter Heinrich Hoerle presents the artist’s unapologetically stony face. Loretta Lux constructs an enchanting image of a little girl whose relationship to the artist is mysteriously open-ended. As both the photographer and subject, Jen Davis uses photography to reveal private moments in carefully composed self-portraits.

Many of the works in this exhibition come from larger photographic series represented in the museum’s collection. Discover more work by these artists as well as the breadth of the entire collection:

Invitation to Stare: Photographic Portraits is organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible by an anonymous donation.

Related Programming

Film: The Vivian Maier Mystery
Thursday, February 20, 6:30 pm

The late street photographer Vivian Maier is the shutterbug of the moment. Born in New York in 1926, raised in France, and living and working as a nanny in Chicago and New York for 40 years, the reclusive Maier was secretly a prolific, self-taught photographer who documented life in the Windy City for decades. But her thousands of stunning pictures were never shown during her lifetime and, in fact, were only discovered after her 2009 death. Admission free.

Screening sponsored by Herb Ascherman.

Art Talk: "The Battle We Didn't Choose, My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer," Angelo Merendino
Thursday, April 3, 6:30 pm

Angelo Merendino is a photographer whose photo-documentary, The Battle We Didn't Choose -- My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer, has received worldwide recognition. Intimate, honest and moving, Merendino's photographs offer viewers a look inside the day-to-day life of a young couple facing breast cancer together. More than a story about loss, this is a story about love and life.

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Merendino does freelance work for both Corbis News and Getty Images. He has exhibited his photographs in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Rome, Italy. Online features have appeared on The New Yorker "Photo Booth," The Huffington Post and The Guardian.

Art History 101: Photographic Portraiture with Collections Manager Arnold Tunstall
Thursday, April 17, 6:30 pm

Looking for inspiration for your latest selfie? Get to know more about the artists and sitters featured in Invitation to Stare, from iconic portraits by Diane Arbus and Harry Callahan to cool contemporaries like Jen Davis and Loretta Lux.

Film: Disfarmer, A Portrait of America
Thursday, May 29, 6:30 pm

Discover an American master portrait photographer, his influence on the modern Manhattan art world, and the legacy he left behind in his hometown of Heber Springs, Arkansas.

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