The Struggle to Become Who We Already Are: Self Portrait, by Evan Hildebrandt

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This is a collaborative piece I did with Alison. She painted the figure and I made the abstract elements of the painting and constructed the pyramid sculptures. Each translucent pyramid contains a sculpture embedded within it: a fist (the power or will of man), a sphere (the breath and transience of man), and a skull (the intellect and pride of man). We wanted to revisit the idea behind the Vitruvian man showing off the perfect proportions of the human body, exploring both the divine harmony and beauty of these ideas, as well as the folly of the human ego.
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The struggle to become who we already are: A self portrait.
Taken as a whole, the exhibit is a portrait of one human experience expressed though the creation of art, the specific life experience of me, artist Evan Hildebrandt. Family, friends, spirituality, social issues, science, life and death are expressed through various mediums and imagery to give myself a better understanding of who I am and what life is about.
My work is a practice in education, teaching myself about subjects through the creation of art. I do not set out to make a work for the enjoyment of the viewer–although I hope that the viewer does enjoys the work and gains from it—it isn’t necessarily made for the viewer. The work is made for me to come to a greater understanding of whatever subject I choose through the creative mode of learning. I do not intend to be a teacher, but a student.
The sheer act of creating allows me to meditate on and ponder whatever subject it may be that I hope to gain a better knowledge of. Through this act of creation, I am better able to understand the subject on a level that cannot be achieved through written knowledge, meditation or observation alone. The physical act of creating the work brings forth deeper revelations about the subject on which I am working. Many times even after the works are complete, new revelations come forth and new understandings are achieved.
With the series, The Struggle to become who we already are: A Self Portrait, I intended to look deeply into the age old question of who am I and have produced a series of work that I believe has given me a better understanding of this question.

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Adam and Eve: A Portrait of Humanity, by Alison Shepard

The Carnegie was a wonderful venue for showing my Adam & Eve series. Evan and I helped to curate a show in the main gallery at the Carnegie with director, Matt Distel and artists Amanda Hogan Carlisle and Jessie Boone. This show was called, “Recongnized: Contemporary Portraiture”. It was a great experience and we had a wonderful turn out at the opening. My Adam & Eve series was under the umbrella of this theme of contemporary portraiture. I was very honored and excited to be showing my work in the Duveneck gallery for many reasons–it’s a fabulous space and I have always admired the artist Frank Duveneck, after whom the gallery is named. These photos don’t quite do the work justice, but they give a good sense of the scale of the work and how lovely the Duveneck gallery is.
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Adam and Eve: A Portrait of Humanity

The Genesis narrative of creation has continued to fascinate me for years. As a portrait of humanity, it is ripe with psychological and spiritual fullness in its explanation of human nature. The story of Adam and Eve is a poignant illustration of how we were made with the capacity to choose love instead of fear, and how we deal with fear by feeling shame and hiding. We hide in a number of ways, both from ourselves and from each other. We often live under the masks of addiction and denial, all the while not realizing that we are hiding from God, and thus cutting ourselves off from the ultimate source of real love.

It seems that from the macro to the micro, humanity struggles with a deep-seated, toxic fear of self, God and others; and from this fear springs forth all the myriad problems and violence that plague our world today. Humans (and entire countries) are afraid of the sense of inferiority they feel in the presence of another who might have more or something ‘better’. Like Adam and Eve after eating the fruit, humans often feel naked and ashamed, and so there is a desperate attempt to cover that sense of being ‘less than’ by hiding, accumulating and insulating. This can manifest in a variety of ways: from consuming material goods and knowledge; creating weapons of mass destruction; taking drugs; over-indulging in food, exercise, spending; to lusting after power, control; to blaming others for our problems, and the list could go on and on . . . .

And yet before the fall, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. Their nudity was a potent symbol of the sense of confidence, safety, freedom, and peace they must have felt. They must have felt unconditionally accepted and loved just as they were, comfortable in their own skin. This is the illusive Eden we all long for: a world free from shame and fear. For me, that world is not so much a space as it is a person. Part of my goal in this series, was to come to a deeper understanding of this person, the Creator of all that I perceive and can’t perceive with my five senses. Historically, the Creator is often portrayed in art as detached, or as an angry judge; but in this series, it was my goal to depict Him as furiously in love with humanity, to the point of being willing to sacrifice what was most valuable to Him in order to ransom them.

Love by its very nature must be chosen; it can’t be forced. Because of that freedom of choice, there will always be the risk of humans choosing the opposing forces of love, such as fear, envy or malice. So perhaps it is absurd to expect to see a world of freedom and love. But I do believe that we experience hauntings of heaven here and there while we traverse this terrestrial plain. And by making a portrait of humanity in the persons of Adam and Eve, I am beginning to understand the redemptive power of love to bring about healing and restoration to anyone who would choose to receive it.

Alison Shepard, 24th of March, 2014