If there’s one activity that Baltimore likes to engage in collectively, it’s looking at itself in the proverbial mirror. It’s part of the reason we love the films of John Waters so much. It’s why we think The Wire was such a wonderful show, and it’s even why we went to go see Naked Baltimore when it opened at the Metro Gallery.
This ongoing game of monkey in the mirror is also part of the reason we’re so excited about the opening of Erin Fitzpatrick‘s Baltimore Portrait series at the University of Baltimore’s Student Center tonight.
The current installation of the Baltimore Portrait series includes 20 new local faces, selected from a total of 75 and counting, with more than half of the series completed recently. Portraits from the series have been on display since November ’09, most recently at the Theater Project’s John Fonda Gallery.
But don’t take our word for it. Erin was kind enough to answer a few quick questions for us in advance of tonight’s show. It’s the first time this blog has undertaken to do an interview, and we couldn’t be happier about it. Let’s begin, shall we?
The Baltimore Chop:
Your portrait series focuses on a collection of people from a specific place. What connections or effects have you observed between people and the places they live and vice versa?
Erin Fitzpatrick: “So far, almost all of my subjects have been Baltimore-based. Some have transplanted, but they are all people who I met here. I have plans to start some new pieces based on subjects in L.A. this summer. Maybe then I’ll be able to get a better perspective on how the portraits differ with location.
For me, working within the parameter of a certain city is about meeting, and capturing on paper or canvas, all of the interesting people that live within that area. It’s like visual networking.”
In addition to being a working artist you’re also a proficient blogger, focusing on your portrait series as well as other more general topics like fashion and Baltimore life. What made you want to start blogging and what’s kept you going?
Fitz: “I originally started Fitzbomb as an easy way to show my art on line. I got a few hits from people I knew and through random searches. Then I started thinking about what people want to see (themselves and other people out and looking good) and how I could tie that in to my art. I started carrying a camera around and shooting nightlife (especially when I could capture people who I have drawn/painted.) This approach immediately expanded my viewing audience.”
How has the Fitzbomb blog complemented or helped with the portraits’ creative process since it’s inception?
“The main way that Fitzbomb has helped my portrait project is through exposure. The next stage in my plan is to make the portrait project and the blog more cohesive.
While I’m sure that I will still photograph/post a lot of social events, I really want to get into documenting my subjects. Like, this is Erin, this is where she lives/works/hangs out, here are some interview questions that tell you what she does, and then the whole thing culminates in my final portrait. I want
to primarily be a place to exhibit my subjects both as portraits and as people (thus actually living up to the blog’s tag line. Ha.)”
All of the portraits in this series are very similar in composition, with a lot of negative space at the top. Do you feel a similar look helps to highlight the differences and details in your subjects?
Fitz: “I compose my pieces with a lot of negative space to draw the viewer in to each individual portrait. So, yes, you got it.
I’ve been thinking about doing some paintings in the near future that have more than one person in them, but I would keep the same space around each figure. I think it would create interesting tensions and make the viewer look at the individuals, but wonder about the relationships.”
Thanks so much! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Fitz: “Nope. You asked good questions. I got to talk about the ideas that I’ve been planning in my head while drawing the pieces for my up-coming show. Also, I’m always thinking about individuals and groups who I could draw, so if you have any good ideas for me…”
If you’ve got any good ideas for Erin, you can let her know at tonight’s opening, or at www.fitzbomb.com. The current installation of Baltimore Portrait opens tonight with a reception from 7- 9 pm in the Hilda and Michael Bogomolny Room on the 5th floor, and will remain on view until August 27th in the 5th Floor Gallery.
UB’s Student Center is at 21 W. Mount Royal Ave in Mount Vernon. See their website for gallery hours and additional information.