By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Beauty might reside in a smile, but honesty always lies in the eyes.
So goes the theory behind “The Witness Archive” — an intense exhibition of large-scale psychological portraits by artist Halim Alkarim. The exhibition, which is showing now at the Robischon Gallery, attempts to gain truth on the universal human experience by focusing on the faces, and more specifically the eyes, of individual people. Alkarim, an Iraqi native, was first inspired to start “The Witness Archive” after traveling to Beirut in 1985.
“His observations of the women there revealed a truth in their eyes that the veiled garments could not fully mask,” says a press release from the Robischon Gallery. “These encounters, followed by the remembered gazes of countless others who were equally unable to voice the violent reality of their lives, led Alkarim to a sense of duty to express what he saw.”
Alkarim was further pushed towards his humanitarian mission after his conscription to Iraqi military service during the first Gulf War. This period of life was a crucial influence on Alkarim and his heart, according to the Robischon Gallery.
To achieve many of the photographs in “The Witness Archive,” Alkarim applied layers of white latex to his models’ faces in order for them to“ become representative of an ageless, universal, identity.” The models then put on wigs and reflective contact lenses before being photographed through screens of translucent paper.
“Within the illumination of both technique and medium, each figure’s intense, colored eyes convey what for many reasons had to remain unspoken,” says the press release. “This essence, in the artist’s words, ‘offers a cultural bridge against those forces in the world that would separate us.”
Where: Robischon Gallery
When: Through Sept. 12
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters