About the exhibition
In her essay “Joy,” Zadie Smith divulges that a source of her daily pleasure in life is, very simply, “other people’s faces.” Beyond the surface of appearance, Smith alludes to the private lives, anxieties, triumphs and toils she imagines in others—strangers she passes on the street or sits beside on the bus, for instance. Her projections are fictions, but they are a continual exercise in empathy, imagination, and compassion nonetheless.
I think of Smith’s essay often, passing days in the anonymity and excitement that life lived among others, in public space, can shape. The encounters may be brief and quickly forgotten—a cashier, a bus driver, the grandfather lifting his grandson onto the train and guiding him to a seat—but they can also be the most real and human stuff of the world. They are daily pleasures that require very little to be savored.
Now, as we all navigate new and deepened physical distances, between those we love and those we only meet in passing—through shared courses of life—I find myself missing strangers and the sensation of jostling together through the world, imagining the lives of others and being reminded of all the ways there are to be. The works in this exhibition celebrate the figurative and subjective, each paying particular attention to human spirit and form, in its many guises and incarnations. Some of these faces may be familiar to us as cultural figures, captured in tenderly imagined moments; others are new acquaintances, unfolding before us through time. From moments of intimacy, joy, and mystery, to the fantastical and heightened, these works present us with a boisterous crowd of beings, reminding us of the nuance and magic residing in the human form.
About the selector
Elizabeth Lalley is a Chicago-based writer and curator, and the assistant director of Goldfinch Gallery. She received an MA in museum & exhibition studies from the University of Illinois-Chicago, and a BA in literature and creative writing from the University of Michigan. She has worked for the Chicago Artists Coalition, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage, and the University of Michigan Department of English. She is a curatorial fellow with ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) and a contributor to Newcity and Chicago Artist Writers.
The entire exhibition