CHARLESTON — Ever looked at a portrait and wondered what, exactly, you’re supposed to be seeing?
Oh, sure, there’s a person staring back at you with a mysterious look, or perhaps a secretive smile that makes you wonder what they’re really up to.
You might like it, feel drawn to it. But what is it that makes this particular picture museum worthy and notable?
These days, you don’t need a degree in fine art or a class in art appreciation to figure it out.
The Clay Center has launched “Inside Look,” an interactive, live video tour featuring — a few at a time — works that are currently on display in the Juliet Art Museum. The first few tours will feature art from the “Face to Face: Portraits” exhibit, part of the museum’s permanent collection which highlights different approaches to portraits dating back to the late 1600s until today.
Viewers can expect a brief history of the featured pieces and artists, as well as a description of the artwork. Patrons can interact live with the host and are encouraged to ask questions.
The schedule for upcoming tours includes:
- Feb. 4 — “Self Portrait” by Susan Hauptman, charcoal and pastel on paper, 1996. Self portraits constitute the largest part of Hauptman’s work in which she appears in various costumes with props. She uses color sparingly to highlight a symbolic element in the composition.
- Feb. 11 — “Portrait of Dr. Kapano Mpuang (Standing)” by Mary Borgman, charcoal on mylar, 2002. Borgman’s artistic career began when she was in her 40s when fibromyalgia ended her career as an interpreter for the deaf. This portrait conveys the self confidence and strength she saw in her subject, a Nigerian doctor whose patterned, native attire contrasts with the softened shadows of her face.
- Feb. 18 — “Masseur Tom” by Joseph Hirsch, oil on canvas, 1993. Hirsch’s powerful paintings made him a leader among 20th century social realists. Many were indictments against social cruelty and corruption.
- Feb. 25 — “The Mark” by Jim Lutes, egg tempera on panel, 2006. Lutes began his career in art in the 1980s with urban landscape paintings that emphasized the decadence and decay in contemporary culture. Distorted human figures in his paintings represented the failure of the “American Dream.” In the late 1990s, he started to use egg tempera — prepared by the artist because it is not commercially produced — as his painting medium.
“The Inside Look” series is expected to grow to include in-depth looks at all exhibits throughout the art and discovery museums, as well as the Caperton Planetarium & Theater and the performing arts.
The tours are conducted live each Thursday beginning at 12:30 p.m. through the Clay Center’s Facebook page.