Artist Spotlight: Nicole Bourgea
Meet Chevy Chase artist Nicole Bourgea, whose latest portrait series focuses on the complex nuances of an everyday occurrence: the act of seeing and being seen.
Nicole Bourgea sees people. With acute perception, unwavering eye contact and an unmatched gift for that "old-fashioned" thing called face-to-face conversation, Bourgea can make any person sitting in her studio feel a bit more, well, a bit more human.
"We just don't do that thing anymore, where we spend time with each other," says Bourgea, who spends anywhere between 40 to 80 hours per portrait with the subject in her studio.
"What you bring to them is an experience of noticing and being noticed," says Bourgea, who remembers the idiosyncratic ways of those whom she paints: the tilt of a head, the direction of their eyes, where and how they choose to stand.
"Portraiture is about human life," she says.
"One of the interesting things that's happened with the commissioned portraits I've done is that people have a very strong reaction to sitting."
So, with her latest series of portraits, this local artist decided to examine the human psyche, delving into the complex psychological phenomenon behind an everyday activity: the act of seeing and being seen.
In each painting, she explores the often conflicting and universal feelings of wanting to be noticed (but not too much) and wanting to control just how much and what others see.
In her studio, Bourgea keeps a binder in which she stores photographs of all of the portraits she's painted. With ease and a smile, she recalls the subjects' stories: a mother who expressed gratitude for the time to be able to just sit and be still, a poet who enjoyed being able to talk with her about life.
So who are the lucky models for Bourgea's most recent paintings?
"I like to paint people from the area going about their day." Her latest subjects have included a street surveyor, an art supply store employee, a parking lot attendant and a homeless man.
Bourgea is looking to exhibit 15 to 20 of these everyday portrait paintings in a public space.
"I would, ideally, like to show them in a more public space," says Bourgea, "so people who aren't used to going in galleries could see them."
And, while she expresses fear that some may view portraiture as a "stale" art, Bourgea sees it as the "vibrant way of how we interact."
In a time when face-to-face communication seems a thing of the past, it is comforting to know that—whether it be a quick flash of a smile or a dart of the eyes—Bourgea will take notice.
To view more of Nicole Bourgea's work, visit her website.