Sparky Campanella, "Brian", 2008, from the series "Portrait", 108 archival inkjet prints, 57 x 46”

Sparky Campanella, “Brian”, 2008, from the series “Portrait”, 108 archival inkjet prints, 57 x 46”

Sparky Campanella

“Portrait” is both literally and conceptually skin deep. On one hand the series supports traditional portraiture by presenting a unique and intimate photographic capture of a single individual. On the other hand the lack of representation, personality, or narrative expunge all of the traditional reference points of a portrait. What is left is pure physicality. Sensuality and individuality are recognizable but largely unfamiliar and without reference. The series forces the viewer to come to terms with how we acknowledge identity when facial details, social clues, and even gender markers are inaccessible.

When Jackson Pollock took his canvas off the wall he made a seemingly minor change that completely transformed both his process and his result. With similar intent I have broken each portrait into dozens of discrete photos, splintering the frame and replacing relational composition with composition by repetition. The decisive moment of traditional portraiture is supplanted by visual persistence. Intimate insights are replaced by intimate process. All models were nude and all images were shot with a macro lens at 1:1 magnification, which required a model-to-subject distance measured in inches.
Each portrait is not just displayed; it is deconstructed into two distinct representations. The close-up view reveals the personality of skin hair fabric. A distant read presents a holistic abstract and further plays on the notion of intimacy; you can only see the whole portrait when you move far enough away to break the intimacy of the individual “cells”. Each portrait is displayed as dozens of individually mounted photos, not a monolithic print; a grid pattern is formed by the empty space between each cell.

The resulting works abstract the physicality we present to the world and revisit the Warholian question of to what extent the real person is hidden beneath the surface versus being entirely surface.

Sparky Campanella (New York, NY) is a New York based self-taught artist. Since 1999 he has been taking a variety of photography courses. He has shown his work nationally in group exhibitions including Umbrella Arts, The Print Center, Texas Photographic Arts, SF Camerawork, Gallery 825 and Irvine Fine Arts Center. He has had solo exhibitions at the DWC in Chicago and the Koelsch Gallery in Houston. In 2005, he received a residency at the School of Visual Arts. Campanella has been a guest instructor at the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco in 2003 and at Prescott College in Arizona from 2002-2003.