Label Text: Kalamazoo artist Al Harris uses his subjects as vehicles to communicate. We learn about the important personal relationships in his life-with his family, friends and students-and we gain insight into his thoughts and feelings through the facial expressions, poses and gestures of his subjects. His preferred medium is pastel, a difficult and demanding material that requires a great deal of concentration and control. To create his portraits, the artist applies the pastels in thick layers, usually from light to dark and then blends them to create a more painterly effect.
Influenced by artist Chuck Close, Harris works from the photographs of his sitters to make preliminary sketches. For Portrait of Kia, he took an entire roll of film of his oldest daughter to find the facial expression he wanted. Cropped like a photograph, he brings Kia's face into sharp focus in the foreground while the background fades away quickly. She looks out past the viewer from beneath heavy-lidded eyes with a quiet intensity and maturity that belies her youth.