It is often said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. If so, then the face, with all of its subtleties and complexities of expression, is the Rosetta Stone to the emotions. Wandering through About Face, the current photography exhibit at Pier 24, is an intensive meditation on the human face as an unparalleled and poetic guide to the interior landscape of deep and intricately complicated emotion.
Set down along the Embarcadero waterfront and under the Bay Bridge, Pier 24 is a gallery/museum space on a historic pier that was abandoned for decades and recently renovated into a 28,000 square foot space for the display and storage of the Pilara Foundation’s vast collection of photography. It is the largest photography exhibition space in the Untied States (and perhaps anywhere) and designed to allow for quiet contemplation by limiting visitors to twenty at a time with two hour appointment slots. Open to the public free of charge, it is an astoundingly generous gift from investment banker Andrew Pilara to the world.
The photographs, displayed without commentary, explanation or tags of any kind, create a non-verbal, purely visual experience, allowing for a meditative, more emotional, less cerebral interaction with the images.
In any art, it is the emotional connection the viewer makes with the piece that cements the bond and commits the viewer to the journey. This emotional connection can be forged in a number of ways but in fiction, it is most often through empathy for the character that this connection is made. And this empathy usually comes from the perception of complex and authentic emotion shown by the character. Emotion that resonates with the reader creates empathy.
As a writer of fiction, I am constantly searching for ways to show character emotion using the basic tools in my writer’s toolbox: action (which includes dialogue and interior monologue/thought,) gestures, internal reactions and facial expressions. I have a file of collected images (mostly from National Geographic) full of expressive faces that (when I remember to use them!) act as cue and clues to the subjects’ emotional state. It is a challenging but valuable exercise to study facial images, try to guess at the underlying emotion and then depict in specific terms using only facial vocabulary.
My visit to About Face felt like a two hour immersion into visually absorbing a near endless plethora of human emotion. To learn more about the current and upcoming exhibits at Pier 24, go to: http://www.pier24.org/information/concept.html
Take Good Care,