This month, as soon as you walked through those iconic glass doors of dk Gallery, you would stop in your tracks. Immediately upon entering are 49 faces and countless eyes (as some portraits have third and even fourth and fifth eyes) staring back at you. This installation is titled, “It Could Be You,” and it’s meant to raise awareness for sexual assault victims and victims of sexual and domestic abuse. The faces capture every combination of color and expression and range from haunting to gory to tranquil to joyful. Each face has its own story to tell, its own wound to heal, its own pain to give voice to. Each face belongs with the other, and each face belongs to everyone because… It could be you.

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 23, 38, 16, 18

The artist responsible for the work is 22-year old dk prodigy, Erin Henry, who’s normally known for her haunting nudes. About the inception of “It Could Be You,” Henry says, “This project came to light while I was taking a small break from my larger paintings. I wanted to paint something quickly to loosen back up, so I opened Instagram, found a selfie someone posted, and started painting it. Then I did it again the next day and then again and again. After a few faces in, I realized that this could be something bigger.” 

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 49, 13, 50, 48

She goes on to explain the title, “The title was pretty simple and fitting. ‘It Could Be You’ has two different intentions. The first half of the daily release of these portraits focused on the concept that every day I find a new face to paint, and that face could be you, even without you knowing. I played on people’s hopes of seeing their face. Later on, I revealed it’s dual meaning. These faces were chosen without discrimination, just like so many victims of sexual assault. These people weren’t willing subjects. It’s simple. It could be you.”  

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 8, 45, 27, 44

Henry stresses the meaning behind the message: “This installation is meaningful because our society needs better awareness about the problem that is sexual assault and abuse. Opening up the discussion is so crucial, especially for victims to share their stories and for others to listen. Anyone can be a victim under any circumstances. Sexual assault rates have dropped 63% since 1993, and awareness is an important part of bringing these numbers down. I want these faces to carry a message of resilience and change as they leave the gallery and find new homes.” 

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 33, 41, 28, 39

As for the inspiration behind each individual portrait, Henry says, “I found the faces by scrolling through social media, mostly Instagram. It did not matter who it was… I did not discriminate between age, race, gender, etc,  just in the same way that predators don’t discriminate when looking for their victims. The interesting part was that I never told the subject that I painted them, but many recognized their face immediately.” And as for the size of installation: “I felt like the size of the portraits and size of the installation all together were the perfect balance. Not too much, and not too little.” 

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 2, 35, 6, 9

Some portraits are more representational than others, and some of the faces are so deconstructed, they’re beyond recognition. Henry explains, “I believe that wherever my mindset that day was probably influenced the way I approached the painting. I felt like I was painting each one in the same manner, but after looking at them all there are indeed some with more expressive and abstract features than others. On my calmer days, I probably paint a little bit tighter and realistic. When it comes to the end of a long day, or I’m stressed out, I definitely take it out on the canvas a little differently.” 

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 5, 36, 27, 11

The faces are distinctly dark and often fantastical — even the most tranquil are still eerie. Henry says, “I like the faces to welcome you in, and then trap you. There are so many small moments and features to become lost in each piece of the installation. Having a good amount of darkness and grunge juxtaposed with bright color schemes and expressions keeps the viewer exploring their own narrative throughout.” 

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 1, 3, 9, 15

 Many portraits feature extra eyes, but Henry denies any reason behind them: “I honestly didn’t really do that on purpose or with much intention. I tried not to think too much about process and decision-making with these pieces. I just let the painting happen. Sometimes that meant adding extra eyes, or chopping off a forehead. It was all in the fun of keeping things expressive and interesting.”

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 43, 13, 19, 24

As for what she hopes to achieve with the installation? Henry expounds, “My goal with this installation was to capture the your attention immediately and then take you through a journey viewing each face, possibly seeing your own. By putting yourself into this installation, it is easier to grasp the idea that it really could be you. None of the subjects of the portraits knew I was painting their face. It was never personal. I hope that the dichotomy of hoping to unexpectedly find your face in this installation while absorbing the unfortunate realities of what that could also mean compelled the viewers to think about this installation on a grander scale.” 

Clockwise from top left: FACE no. 21, 11, 26, 7

Among the 49 pieces, Henry had trouble playing favorites: “Each face was truly my favorite while it was on my easel. I kept making new favorites as I worked, but my top two would be FACE no. 2 and FACE no. 5.” 

FACE no. 2 & 5

For more information about “It Could Be You,” come to dk Gallery on the Marietta Square or follow @soil.mate on Instagram. “It Could Be You” comes down from the White Walls Monday, July 30.

by Lily Tischner

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment