Old Friends and New Trends
February 3, 2012
Brennan Probst / The Courier - Senior Sarah Johnson admires Artist Brent Houzenga’s newest work depicting the altered faces of portraits from the 1800s. The series is part of the Old Friends - New Trends now viewable in the Everett Gallery in the Monmouth College Library.
Artist Brent Houzenga gives old, forgotten portraits a new lease on life
Students visiting the upper floors of the library on Friday, Jan. 27, may have been surprised to find over twenty faces staring back at them from illustration boards and from behind glass. Some of the faces were covered in patterns, others with a myriad of colors and still others with scrawled letters strewn about their surface.
The title of the gallery was “Old Friends-New Trends,” by Brent Houzenga. While in Macomb, Ill., Houzenga came across an old, red book that had been thrown out. Upon closer inspection, the book was revealed to be a photo album with pictures dating back to the 1800s. Although he initially appreciated the find for its age, the album soon became the inspiration for a series that even he describes as “really trippy.”
The pictures fell into two main groups: Windows and illustration boards. The window pieces were made with a technique called “reverse painting,” in which the artist spray paints the colors onto the inside of the glass, then makes scrapings with a razor blade to create a series of layered patterns. The illustration boards were also made using spray paint, but were defined with tape instead of scraping to make sharper, geometric patterns.
“A big part of it is just being crazy, then going ‘ooh, I like that effect,’” Houzenga said about his technique. “I like to be chaotic then bring it back to something you can look at.”
The gallery was displayed to a crowd of art students, professors and curious passers-by.
“Initially it just came off as funny faces with abstract designs incorporated into the pieces,” said sophomore George Burnette, “but the idea of the artist to use forgotten pictures as his influence for the work was invaluable.”
His work is now displayed around the world and the core idea of Houzenga’s pieces continue: Honoring the everyday, forgotten person. By choosing to make anonymous faces the backdrop of his works instead of historic figures or celebrities, he hoped to both honor the deceased and empower all of us who are not famous.
“Everyone is meant to shine,” he said, “you’re just as good as anyone.”
Edit Feb. 8, 2012: In the original version of the article, Houzenga was credited with finding the photo album in Moline, Ill. He actually found it in Macomb, Ill. The article has been edited to correct the mistake. We apologize for the inconvenience.