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How do you feel about portraits of strangers?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 · 16 Comments

Update: most people think they’re awesome!

Have you noticed the curious trend of folks collecting strangers’ portraits? These design geeks scour flea markets and the like for the perfect, long-forgotten portrait which they dust off and hang as if it were their beloved great-aunt. Here are some examples…

Victoria Smith’s apt via shelterpop

“She’s always on the lookout to add to her ‘family of cheesy portraits’… It started with Rico Suave on the upper left and the family just grew…’ Victoria even creates stories of past relatives for her virtual family tree…” – shelterpop


.Kelly and Rod’s home in Anthology Magazine

“Kelly finds ‘something intriguing about the old group photos and the many stories they hold.’ ” – Anthology Magazine



Tags: Living w/ Art

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 lizzie // Jan 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    i think it can be fun…but i would only do it if i had a story or a great reason for buying the first one…if you set out to collect them…it’s a little different, i guess.

    also, i feel i might be persuaded if someone made me feel guilty about someone’s portrait or family painting going unnoticed…getting lost in the junk of garage sales and the like..everything that’s most meaningful to me today will be worthless soon…

    all of that to say this: maybe.

  • 2 Kate // Jan 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    what an awesome answer, lizzie! i love it! and i think your response underlines the fact that this is a complicated question about obsolescence and value, right? i try not to think about resale value when buying art but certainly buying other people’s (esp. if they’re deceased) art brings up this question.

    also, i love your point that most of the stuff that’s meaningful to us today will one day be worthless…

    random thought – wouldn’t it be crazy if you visited someone’s home and they happened to have a portrait of your grandma on your wall???

  • 3 Jennifer Davis // Jan 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I love it! And- I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I am working on some paintings for an upcoming group show of self portraits. I wonder where mine will end up…not on MY walls! ha! ;0)

  • 4 chocolatetrudi // Jan 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    My partner, Paul, collects old black and white portrait photos. They’re interesting for the poses, props and clothing in them. I’ve made sure I know which ones are of his real family, though, so that I don’t grab the wrong ones if the house catches on fire!

  • 5 Kate // Jan 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    hey jennifer – i feel like it’s different if they’re self-portraits but maybe not… i think if you know that a portrait is a self-portraits then you look at it differently. but then again if you’re buying pieces from garage sales you’d probably have no idea. ; )

  • 6 Kate // Jan 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    choccolatetrudi – so your partner has both family and anonymous portraits hung together? i like that idea… if nothing else you have to ask who’s who and that’s an awesome conversation starter!

  • 7 Kathy // Jan 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    This artist has been painting portraits of people ( that evoke a feeling or memory. I think portraits of strangers can be powerful. They capture a moment, a feeling, a memory.

  • 8 chocolatetrudi // Jan 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    The small ones were all mixed up, but I made him move the non-relations to another place so I had space to add photos of my relatives to the collection. The big ones are nearly all non-relations, and the one that isn’t is in another grouping of war related bits and pieces.

  • 9 Kate // Jan 27, 2011 at 10:05 am

    kathy, her work is wonderful! thanks so much for the suggestion! i think i may do a feature on her in the future. i absolutely love the titles!

  • 10 Kate // Jan 27, 2011 at 10:06 am

    choccolatetrudi – it sounds like a nice arrangement! it’s great that you have your family photos up and hanging… we don’t have any up!

  • 11 belinda/gretchenmist // Jan 27, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    interesting!! i don’t own any portraits of anyone i don’t know and occasionally this question pops into my brain when i see portraits of people for sale . . . only sometimes tho! i guess it’s like seeing strangers in real life, sometimes your attracted to them and other times not. there’d need to be some kind of connection 🙂

  • 12 Lindy Gruger Hanson // Jan 29, 2011 at 5:33 am

    I’m not usually attracted to portraits of strangers but sometimes a piece will just speak to me and invokes a feeling of just wanting to look at it. I have one piece I inherited and it’s of a very old woman. It’s a watercolor of a mexican woman sitting by an adobe fireplace, her hands folded in her lap, a kerchief wraps her pulled back hair, her expression is very serene….there is just something about this painting I have always loved. I treasure it but it’s hard to explain why I feel this connection to it.

  • 13 Kate // Jan 31, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    belinda & lindy, i think what you’re both talking about is the chemistry you feel (or don’t) with the subjects of portraits. either you feel a connection for some reason (a certain expression, feature or detail reminds you of someone or something) or you don’t. if i were to acquire portraits i would have to feel that way too.

  • 14 Duda // Dec 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Bev & Ken Jones – Amazing! You are so talented, Jeremy and have a very good eye for what will work. Anya, your btaeuy shines through in the photos.

  • 15 Kansas auto insurance quotes // Apr 1, 2015 at 11:25 am

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  • 16 Alexandra // Apr 5, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    Ah, to have a funky apartment with tnitkers down low and tables with edges. Alas, small people running around all day long prevents that.Great pictures, I really like her sound. Good post.

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