Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Seen: Santiago Echeverry's Modern Saints and E-Portraits

November 1, 2013-- [From a speech by Pope Francis] "“The Saints are not supermen and neither are they perfect. They lived normal lives marked by sadness and joy, hardships and hopes, before reaching the glory of heaven."

The saints are men and women who have joy in their hearts and they transmit this to others,” Francis stressed, tweeting: “Christians know how to face difficulties, trials and defeat with serenity and hope in the Lord.”

The Pope went on to say that “being saints is not a privilege of the few but everyone’s vocation.”


Santiago Echeverry, a Colombian born artist, presently working at UT, who had a binary exhibit at HCC Ybor last month. The Modern Saints poses the question of what contemporary saints would be like. The artist asked his young friends about this, and eventually photographed them apparently in reflection, with their abstracted fears projected unto their faces. We see a lot of what Pope Francis is saying in the opening quote above, with the additional projections emphasizing the expressions of the subjects.

Work by Santiago Echeverry

In looking at these portraits, the subjects' harsh experiences and acquired knowledge, coupled with memory are clearly expressed. Implicit is the idea that the viewer is also a Saint. These are common experiences to us all...and these young people have a long way to go in their lives. The Catholic idea that graceful suffering is intertwined with deliverance seems to run through this work. These portraits remind me a little of Thomas Ruf's portraits of his friends. In this case, a typology of modern saints emerges.

The Self E-portraits (get it? selfies) have a strong conceptual aspect. Echeverry programmed/wrote code in an existing program to create these. They are overtly pixilated and visibly tiled, deconstructing the realism we expect out of a photographic portrait. Our eyes struggle to reconstruct the image. These have no "handwork" in them, what we see is the outcome of a program applied to the image files. They are a commentary on the influence of process on the visible outcome.

Congratulations to Santiago Echeverry and HCC Ybor for a good show.

 --- Luis

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