Yesterday, I stopped by the SUArt gallery to see Greg Heisler’s portrait exhibition. I’ve only been there once before, and I’m not sure why I don’t come more often. It’s such an intriguing part of campus, the exhibits are always changing, and it’s a relaxing place to spend even just a few minutes.
Walking through the gallery section reserved for Heisler’s work, I noticed a lot of familiar faces. Bruce Springsteen, shot in a rustic setting with a guitar behind him. Tim Burton, laying on the ground surrounded by some dangerous looking objects. Pete Seeger with a banjo on his knee.
There were also the not-so-familiar: world leaders, authors, and most noticeably Muhammad Ali’s trainer Luis Sarria. I saw this portrait everywhere, used as promotion for the exhibition, and it was easy to see why. The way the light hit every part of Sarria’s face, every wrinkle on his hands, was astonishing. The close crop created an intimacy and led me to think about just what was going on in his mind- he seemed stressed, deeply thinking about what to do in the face of a tough situation.
Not every portrait showed its subjects in a situation you’d expect. His portrait of Muhammad Ali isn’t in the boxing ring or of him training. In fact, it doesn’t incorporate boxing at all.
The portrait that stuck most with me was of Joyce Carol Oates, a very famous and prolific author who is also an SU alumna. After finding out she grew up in my hometown and has written several moving pieces about it, I’ve been trying to find out more about her. It was awesome to see someone I consider my “hometown hero” beautifully photographed and hung next to all these famous faces.
Flipping through Heisler’s website, it’s easy to see that not all of his photography is black and white or in muted colors. Still, the heavy, pensive emotion you get from all the portraits chosen really ties everything together. It makes for a moving exhibit that really makes you think, and I would encourage everyone to take a few minutes out of their day to see it.