Essay by John Morrell
Eduardo Fausti, Ageless, Mezzotints Exhibition Catalog
The Gallery at The Williams Club of New York, 2010
I first saw Eduardo Fausti’s prints while coordinating “The Artists’ Choice,” at New York’s Atlantic Gallery in 2007. When Eduardo asked me to comment on his work for the current exhibition, I was honored. Eduardo’s portraits are extraordinary; both for their close observation and for his skillful handling of the mezzotint chosen to express and honor the human presence he evokes.
The artist writes the series began by chance, seeing two women in Shanghai. The artist’s mother had died earlier; he was thus sensitive to maternal presence. The two women agreed to be photographed. Later in Fausti’s New York studio, the series unfolded from the image of Lú Qing (Clair), one of the Shanghai women.
The portraits are done on richly tinted 10.5 x 12.5” paper. Mezzotint’s “golden age” in 18th century England saw the prints promoting, and providing a lowercost alternative to, grander painted portraits. Groups of prints were sold bound as keepsakes. We see these portraits not bound, but in an art space. We know them not as famous, but as mothers and grandmothers of the artist’s friends, as the women who raised us all. The rich, lined surface of their faces invites witness to their lives. Each subject’s name is written in the language of the culture in which they are known to the artist.
A biographical remembrance accompanies each portrait but two: Lú Qing (Clair); and Fajr (Dawn), a veiled Afghan woman. These provide a capstone of quiet dignity and, quite literally, a carefully recorded veiled presence that still retains the power to move us.
The mezzotint medium provides wide tonality with rich blacks, giving Fausti’s portraits great presence and depth. Each depicts a range of visual characteristics unique to each subject as a person, and as a carrier of cultural tradition. The labor intensive mezzotint process is analogous to the long, often difficult lives of these women.
But the process alone does not explain their strength. Fausti’s drawing, sensitivity to edge, attention to surface patterns on each face and subtle details in clothing and jewelry, involve us in reading their lives, as we read each print’s surface. Fausti engages us while going beyond a physical likeness or stereotype of beauty, much as we go through life itself: reading others’ faces for meaning, evaluating character.
I recommend living with the images before reading the text. Create your own narrative about these women. Your time will be rewarded over and over. I was mesmerized.
Chair and Associate Professor of Painting
Department of Art and Art History