Thursday, August 23, 2007

Something Vaguely Humanitarian

The Memory Project is an organization working to get talented art students to make portraits of orphans and abandoned children, repeatedly over the course of several years, so that the children will have personal objects that attest to their existence and uniqueness in the world.

Obviously, photographs would be easier and faster and more accurate, but they're doing paintings, which tells me this isn't about accuracy or speed or convenience. In fact, I believe it's probably more about the child's experience as mirrored by the artist. A portrait requires a great deal of time spent studying someone's face, and while it is very natural for parents to do that with their children--parents famously watch their children sleeping, for instance--orphans probably do not have anyone who studies their face. Without benefit of external observation and feedback, I imagine a person probably can grow up feeling very limited to whatever is going on inside their heads.

I do not know if the Memory Project accomplishes what it is trying to do, and I'm not even sure I understand what they are doing... but if I've understood correctly, I find this a fascinating effort.


Rufus said...

A portrait does help you out of your head a bit. It also helps mark the passage of time. I think it's probably for the best that these kids get a memento of their childhoods. It really is a fascinating project. Thanks for posting it.

Holly said...

Most of the self-portraits I've done were sort of intimidating and weird. It probably means I need to get even further out of my head. Or spend time in a Mexican orphanage.