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Faces Of Kish

Capturing Our School's Diversity In Watercolor

Sophie West, Editor

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The year 2018 will mark the 50-year anniversary of Kishwaukee College. In honor of this, Professor of Art and Design Miles Halpern has launched an art project with the intent of showing our school’s diversity. The project officially began on August 22, 2017, although Miles first began painting portraits of his students last spring. Miles has painted over 50 portraits already, and expects to have anywhere from 200-400 by the time the project is completed. It will be shown in the Kishwaukee College Art Gallery in December of 2018.

The portraits are painted with watercolor, and each one is done with a single color of the subject’s choice. Miles feels this diversity of colors represents the school’s background. Each portrait takes around 10-15 minutes, during which time Miles gets to know his subjects: “[W]hile I am working, we chat, and talk about where we are from, what we are doing, and where we hope to go.” Miles has already seen a great deal of diversity in his sitters, and learned that Kishwaukee is more global than he had initially realized. He has painted students from Haiti, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, and Mexico.

A few of the Faces Of Kish portraits. Photo provided by Miles Halpern.

There is no opportunity for erasure in watercolor painting, and Miles believes this adds to the appeal of his images: “To me, the possibility of failure and risk as well as the short [length of time] imbues each picture with energy and spontaneity, which I feel gives the pictures a charm. They are not perfect, and neither are we, and the imperfections help to give the sitters individuality, attitude, and extra emotion.”

Miles adds that people often find art inaccessible, whether it is for economic or social reasons: “I think art makes the world better, and yet many people feel that art is cut off from them… I envisioned this as a project to make art accessible to those who are not normally involved in art, and to those who never imagined that they could become a subject of art.” For art enthusiasts, art is an opportunity to understand something on a deeper level, whether or not the whole story is shown. It is not possible to paint a perfect portrait in 15 minutes, just as it is not possible to get to know someone in 15 minutes. In a way, this adds to the beauty of the project: “People are so interesting, and yet we spend little time looking at and trying to understand one another. Portraits are an opportunity to take our time, look, and get to know another person,” Miles explains.

 

He hopes that this tribute will “help create a visual of the Kish community, and help us to appreciate each other.” He feels that he has learned a lot from the project, and that painting portraits has helped him grow as a person, build a sense of empathy, and better understand the community: “Kishwaukee College has given me a lot, and I wanted this project to be a way to give back, to be inclusive, and to help tell our community’s story through portraits of its people.”

Miles Halpern will be in front of the Kishwaukee College Art Gallery every Tuesday and Thursday, from 12:30-2:00 PM. The project is open to students, staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Faces Of Kish”

  1. m joanne kantner on October 11th, 2017 9:07 am

    If you need some extras to fill in your total, I am happy to sit. Let me know. Thanks, Joannr

    [Reply]

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