DC Artist Creates Impromptu Urban Portraits

Washington, DC, artist paints strangers and offers up the portraits as gifts to her unsuspecting subjects.

A Georgetown woman wearing all white and carrying a white dog, a server in a long apron standing outside of Ben's Chili Bowl and a man eating a pastry on a city street: Washington, DC, artist has captured them all for her new project "AS IS: An Urban Portrait Project."

Bourgea paints large-scale formal oil portraits, usually on commission. But recently she embarked on AS IS, a project in which she painted eight portraits of everyday people she met on the street.

After showing the paintings at a Sneak Peak at The Dunes (1402 Meridian Pl., NW, Washington, DC) this week, she plans to place each portrait where she met the subject and leave it with a note, which reads: "If this is you, this painting is yours to take."

She hopes to surprise the person whom she featured with the gift.

Bourgea explained her motivation for this project an in email to Patch [emphasis hers]:

"In a world where most human interaction is strained down to its digital pulp, this project asks the question 'Do we really see each other anymore?' by bringing fine art onto the street. I believe that while the attention that we pay to each other requires very little of us, we don’t often give it away freely. I want to tell people that they are seen. It is my hope that in some small way this project will ignite conversation about the power and the gift of notice."

She said she met the Georgetown woman near A Mano (1677 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC) on Bookhill in Georgetown. Bourgea said the woman had a "dramatic black wig," was dressed in all white and was walking with her small white dog.

She took the woman's photo and created a five-by-four-foot oil painting.

On Oct. 1 Bourgea will return to the scene and place the portrait there in the hope that the woman with the black wig and white dog will find it.

The sneak peek unveiling of the portraits is Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. at 1402 Meridian Pl., NW, Washington, DC. Call 202-436-9118 for more information about the event at The Dunes.

To learn more about Nicole Bourgea's project and her work, read her blog.



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