pop-up portrait of paola…

IMG_1543I’ve mentioned before how terrific Baltimore is for artists and writers. It seems like opportunities come fast and furious here, and it’s often just as much about connecting people as it is about the work itself. The last few weeks, I’ve been working on a piece for the Baltimore Portrait Project, which pairs artists so they can create portraits of each other. Ultimately, these will appear on a large LED board outside Baltimore’s Penn Station…how cool is that?

What a challenge to use a book form for portraiture…but also, how apt! A poem aims to shed a certain light on a subject; and its container, its book, can represent the subject in shape, as well. I was paired with a wonderfully imaginative and talented painter named Paola. After meeting up for coffee and a walk, I had enough clues to begin my 3-D portrait, a three-board exposed binding…complete with a portrait-ish poem (“Origin Story: Paola,” inspired by a painting she’s currently working on), nose, hair and a face.

I started by carving the shapes: the full face, a half face that lifts to reveal the book, and the neck, which acts as a stand when pushed backwards.


Carving the nose was tough! I wound up gluing several pieces of binder board together and then carving the block down. That’s a first…


To get a sense of Paola’s real hair, which is curly and toned brown on top and blond on the bottom, I dyed a nice wool yarn and then wrapped it tightly around wooden skewers, which I boiled and then baked so it would keep its shape (another first for me!)…


I did my best to paint a good face. This is not my strong suit, but what better challenge, right? I had hoped to be able to pull off some Mark Ryden-inspired eyes, since Paola loves his work, but I wound up working more from my photo of her, as my Ryden attempts didn’t seem right. And onto the hair…


In the end, I did away with the earrings and accepted the fact that she looks more like herself from certain angles than others. And I quite like how her form works, as if we can peer inside her mind a bit by reading her poem.




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