The Human Face: The Medium for Soul Meetings

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Mona Lisa.

And this statement by James McMullan: The human head is potentially the most emotional subject an artist can choose. We spend our lives scanning other people’s faces to assess their relationship to us and our feelings towards them.*

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$F / Illuminated Portraiture Collection

And why do I find myself most passionate about faces and human bodies and postures right now? I trained in Interdisciplinary Arts, so I’ve worked in fashion, animation, video, street intervention, sound, and dance, in addition to 2D, so why faces, and why now?**

My long time interest in archetypes informs my current practice to an extent; seeing those universal attributes expressed in the individual psyches of my very own family and friends provides some sort of link to all of humanity. But my interest goes deeper than just that, because I could study those archetypes in a quicker, more stylized manner, and I have, (i.e. Cultivate, a study of the Demeter/Ceres archetype, based on human form yet so stylized to be cartoon-y, even.)

So why am I now intrigued by the more realistic rendering of photographic subjects? All of whom are family and friends, and who’ve touched my live in some way.

Part of it is practical; I want to deepen my confidence in technique and practice. I want to really advance my spatial ability with perspective and shading, and crosshatching, but more…

I’m fascinated with this apparent, illusory reality, as it visually occurs via light and shadow expressed through our faces, and how it connects to alternate realities of emotion, meaning, intention, unconscious, subconscious, and our true essence.

Our human social bonding techniques are essential and outstanding in terms of evolution, and depend on the emotional information relayed by faces and postures. But beyond the evolutionary imperative for social bonding: “Your body’s whole purpose is to join this visible and invisible realms, and intelligence isn’t the only force that wants to express itself through you. So do creativity, truth, beauty, and love.”*** And this moves me deeply.

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Salty Elixir / Illuminated Portraiture Collection

All the humor, sincerity, levity, depth, intensity, concepts, and passions exhibited by our human form are so captivating and sacred to me, I can’t help but be engrossed by photographs of captured moments. I want to examine them deeper with my graphite pencils until I can see — and therefore know**** — the smiles and eye glints and embraces of these forms. Our masks often serve the ego’s agenda, but I’m most interested when I glimpse the higher consciousness shining through.

My investigation often inspires my own interpretations of the energetic quality of the form. While I aim for realism for each face, the rest of the visual field relaxes with my inquiries: “What is this soul expressing to me?” and “How, energetically, does this look and feel?” This exploration becomes more abstract to a viewer, and I hope that it touches their soul too.

Back to the Mona Lisa. I imagine Da Vinci obsessing with rendering the face as realistically as possibly, but then there’s this imaginary landscape behind her, which to me, represents a vastness and boundlessness of spirit. What was Da Vinci capturing with that? I comprehend it as a study of the vast wilderness of the female mystique. How bout you? Our answers don’t really matter so much as the fact that this painting has fascinated us all for so long. Part of this, too, is the enigma of her expression. The mystery of what lies within.

To my many muses: Thank you for inspiring me, and thank you to your souls, for speaking to mine.

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Soul Sisters / Illuminated Portraiture Collection

**Thank you to Craig Carlson, who, years ago, in our I Want Burning class, said, “Ask yourselves, Why Rumi? And why Now?”
***Deepak Chopra, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul
****Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation, by the wonderful Frederick Franck, whose sculpture garden Pacem en Terris I had the honor to visit.

♥ ~ Meghan Oona

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