The pair's exhibit, '2-Piece,' opens Thursday at Streetlight Guild
Portraiture is a complex form. Beyond even the technical aspect of recreating a person’s appearance so that they’re easily recognizable, there’s a more ethereal element at play in which the artist attempts to capture some shade of a subject’s spirit. As humans are multidimensional, this usually means homing in on a single facet of an individual’s personality in an attempt to bring it to life on canvas.
By teaming for “2-Piece,” which opens at Streetlight Guild on Thursday, Nov. 14, Lisa McLymont and Cat Sheridan manage to capture multiple angles of a single subject, with each artist presenting their distinctive view of the same personality. Witness the dual portraits of Streetlight founder Scott Woods. In McLymont’s piece, a smiling Woods exudes the kind of warmth one might encounter as the poet, writer and Alive columnist greets friends or sips a particularly great blend of coffee. Sheridan’s Woods, in contrast, is more reserved, his head cocked slightly as though he’s weighing the cons of the latest tax-abated development or being photographed alongside Mayor Ginther.
“The point is to show the nuance of folks, and the way different people can see you,” said Sheridan, who joined McLymont at Blockfort for an early November interview.
But while the pair painted the same individuals (most of the people included in the show have some connection to Streetlight and its surrounding community), McLymont and Sheridan said virtually everything else differed between their processes, from conception to execution. While Sheridan photographed her subjects prior to painting, for instance, McLymont’s pieces were informed by images posted to social media. And while Sheridan worked a portrait at a time, completing one before moving onto the next, McLymont painted multiple birch panels at once, in part to keep a consistent feel and color palette among works that might otherwise feel disconnected from one another (McLymont has long painted on wood, appreciative of the qualities the grain can add to a piece).
“It’s been a great experiment to readily work alongside one another and see the differences in how we work,” Sheridan said. “It gives a greater appreciation for the beauty there.”Andy and Joel have been working on portraits of one another for almost 19 months and are still nowhere near finished: Sign up for our daily newsletter
The pair, who share a studio Downtown at Blockfort, had never exhibited together in a two-person show before being approached by Woods to display in the second-floor gallery of his East Side arts space, and the invitation kicked off weeks of brainstorming, much of it informed by the history of the building in which Streetlight is housed, as well as the surrounding neighborhood and community.
“We kept on bouncing ideas, neither of us ever truly settling,” Sheridan said. One abstract idea that the two might revisit down the road centered on statistics, DNA testing and the concept of ethnic heritage. Eventually, though, a tighter than expected timeline forced the two to simplify. This, combined with the out-of-state departures of a couple of community members, including artist and filmmaker Cameron Granger, inspired the duo to celebrate the folks vital to creating culture within the city — a concept that came with its own set of challenges.
“My initial, pared-down list had 36 names,” McLymont said, and laughed. The pair eventually whittled this number to a dozen, including portraits of one another, though with less than two weeks remaining until opening night Sheridan still had two paintings left to complete.
In addition, there was an added pressure associated with crafting the portrait of a person who runs in similar circles, and for whom each artist already had a great deal of respect.
“I locked in early on the color I associate with them when I see them,” McLymont said, gesturing to a beaming portrait of ever-smiling Carnell Willoughby of Willowbeez Soulveg. “All of [the paintings] radiate, but just very different tones. … I’m driven by the beauty of a person and their spirit, and Carnell is always smiling, so how can I not paint that?”
“We thought about people who had impacts on us, whether or not we knew them really, really well. … I think the tie that binds them all is they’re the culture shifters, the community makers,” Sheridan said. “And [in the painting] you want them to see how you see them, too. You want to do them justice, and let them feel truly loved when they see it.”