Nathaniel Lang
Painting of a woman wearing a black shirt

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Collection of the artist, courtesy Branch Gallery

This portrait was begun when I learned that the subject would be leaving North Carolina, and was finished more than a month after she had gone. In my current work I paint my immediate circle of friends, isolating each person for closer inspection. Careful observation of individual faces creates a sense of physical familiarity. I want to suggest that we may intimately know someone’s face while never completely knowing his or her mind. I begin each portrait by taking a series of photographs, trying to capture a face in a light and a pose that seem both ordinary but visually interesting. I then translate these photos into egg tempera paintings. The brush strokes and the distortions that occur while painting become evidence of human labor and the effort required in striving to understand others.