When I got an email from Jack Hanley Gallery that artist Jadranka Kosorcic would be drawing portraits there, I figured, Why not? I could write about the experience, and besides, sitting for a portrait was on the long list of life experiences I hoped to have. (Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you about the time I took a pregnancy test.) The artworks were to end up in a show at the gallery, and I had visions of attending the opening, overhearing people
discuss admire my portrait.
The email included the examples pictured above and this blurb: “Jadranka Kosorcic shows in her portraits that the necessary effort of identification and the corresponding aesthetic structure represent only a sort of ‘identikit pictures’ (JK). These phantoms signify an approach to something—which the artist calls a ‘between,’ folding the ‘Being’ of the artist to meet the ‘Being’ of the painted model. This attempt of portraits becoming self-portraits is instable and contains a collapse. The problem is naturally complex, but two focal points may be singled out: the ‘Being’ of the artist changes constantly, whereas the image, the medium of record is a rigid system despite of its sketchy appearance—once fixed it is established. The work of Jadranka Kosorcic is fugitive, because she is aware of the distance to the image.” I had no idea what it meant, but I was impressed.
The day before my sitting, confirming the appointment, I asked how long I should expect my sitting to take. Two hours. Given the simplicity of Jadranka’s drawings, I was surprised it would take that long. When I arrived, she told me that she’d be taping our conversation. Her plan for the exhibit was to play a loop of snippets of the various subjects speaking.
She was very nice, although I found her a little hard to understand, more because of the room’s echoiness than her Croatian accent. We talked about Tribeca, 9/11, Century 21, art, her previous exhibits in London and (if I remember correctly) Berlin, the worst gift I ever gave Adam (a True Mirror), her brother the fashionista, and who knows what else. All that sitting in a chair, trying to look straight ahead, was sort of like attending a concert at Carnegie Hall, but at least there I can sleep. At one point, she asked if I wanted to stretch my legs, and I asked if I could use the restroom. (I’m sure that’ll be my snippet: “May I use the restroom?”) I checked my phone: We were two hours in. Then I got back to the chair, and she had left the drawing face up. She was a third done, tops.
“You look a bit pale,” she said upon returning from the restroom. “Are you OK?”
I nodded weakly. I began to fear I was being tortured in the name of art. Morning is when I’m most productive, and the day was slipping away. The conversation naturally lagged, on my part because I felt like I was disturbing her whenever I spoke—and the last thing I wanted was for her to be delayed.
After another hour, she said we were almost done. Finally, she stood up. And then she placed the drawing on the floor so I could see it. “I still need to work on the chin,” she said.
[UPDATE: Evidently I told Jadranka at the time that I wouldn’t publish the image, so I’ve removed it.
I suppose you’ll have to go to the show if you want to see it. Sorry for the bait-and-switch!!! UPDATE #2: I just went to the show, and my portrait didn’t make the cut. I wonder why?]
“I don’t see the resemblance,” I said. Realizing how that sounded, I added, “I mean, I’m not sure I would, though. We all have ideas of how we look, right?” To be totally honest, if I’m going to spend an hour or three sitting for a portrait, I want the image to be an idealized version of me, not an attractive one. I guess that’s why you commission a portrait.
The invitation for the opening—this Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 136 Watts—arrived the other day. It explains the concept more clearly: “The resulting portrait is neither them nor she, neither fictitious nor truthful. The stark figures composed of acutely drawn lines seem, rather, to chart the 1-3 hours spent. Kosorcic’s portraits become a literal conversation piece where the voices of two and the hand of one meet, each revealing the subtle tendencies of the artist herself.” I understood that well enough: It was never really about me. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.