The National Portrait Gallery’s triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition celebrates excellence in the art of portraiture. As the realization of a gift made by Virginia Outwin Boochever (1920–2005) to the Smithsonian, both the competition and this exhibition demonstrate the power of one individual to make a transformative impact.
The 42 portraits currently on view in The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today were selected through an open call that garnered more than 2,700 entries from artists working across the United States and Puerto Rico. They responded with works that engage contemporary society, many providing new insights into the unprecedented reality experienced in the time surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
These selected finalists create artworks in a wide range of media, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, textiles, video, and performance. They demonstrate how capacious and changing the genre of portraiture can be, illuminating the genre’s power to make visible a multitude of life experiences.
The winner of the 2022 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition was Alison Elizabeth Taylor, whose portrait “Anthony Cuts under the Williamsburg Bridge, Morning” (2020) was inspired by walks the artist took around her Brooklyn neighborhood during the COVID-19 lockdowns. She encountered hair groomer Anthony Payne, who, with his workplace shuttered, had taken his scissors, mirror, and chair to the streets.
In her process, which she developed and named “marquetry hybrid,” Taylor incorporates paints, inkjet prints, and the natural grains of over 100 veneers. Marquetry, with its inlaid combination of woods, can “memorialize,” she notes. She acknowledges the history of the craft, which was favored by Louis XIV when he acquired furniture for Versailles. By giving Payne this “royal treatment,” Taylor aims to pay tribute to him, explaining, “I want him to see how much his example meant to me.”
See the full list of finalists and learn more at portraitcompetition.si.edu.