Portraits at Cade Tompkins Project gallery

Bill Van Siclen, The Providence Journal, March 6, 2014

Portraits both old and new are the focus of “Selfies & Friends: Contemporary Portraiture,” an enjoyably eclectic exhibit at Providence’s Cade Tompkins Projects.


While the show’s title is technically correct — the number of contemporary portraits is much larger than the number of older artworks — that disparity isn’t immediately apparent. In fact, the first two portraits you see are vintage pieces — one an Impressionist-tinged portrait of a young woman by an anonymous artist, the other a circa-1900 self-portrait by the Boston painter Frank Hector Tompkins. (As it turns out, both sitters are related to owner Cade Tompkins.)


As for the more contemporary works, Providence painter Julie Gearan makes a strong impression with works that mix Old Master techniques with elements of fantasy and Surrealism. So do fellow Rhode Islanders Dan Talbot, whose loose, sketch-like portraits are probably the closest thing to actual “selfies,” and Ben Watkins, who contributes a pair of spooky 3-D “portraits” made of molded plaster.


Also of note: Sophiya Khwaja, a RISD-trained Pakistani artist whose darkly humorous self- portraits are the best things in the show. (Ends March 29.)

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