Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition
The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition celebrates excellence in the art of portraiture. As the realization of a gift made by Virginia Outwin Boochever (1920-2005) to the Smithsonian, both the competition and this exhibition stand as a testament to the transformative power of one individual to make an impact. The portraits featured here were selected through an open call that garnered more than 2,600 entries from artists working across the United States and Puerto Rico. For the first time in the triennial’s history, the museum specifically asked that submissions respond “to the current political and social context,” and this resulting presentation offers perspectives on some of today’s most pressing issues. This year’s Outwin aims to advance the art of portraiture for future generations while encouraging visitors to empathize and locate meaningful connections.
PRIZE WINNERS of 2019
Excerpt from A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez (2018) by Hugo CrosthwaiteSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Portraits have traditionally sought to capture the essence of a person by presenting the subject at a specific moment. A Portrait of Bernice Sarmiento Chavez stands in sharp contrast to that precedent as it interweaves various memories, experiences, and aspirations of a young woman from Tijuana who decides to pursue the American Drean. The film suggests that the immigration journey is seeded with constant danger,especially for women and children.This video is part of a series based on artist Hugo Crosthwaite’s interviews with people who are living in or are passing through Tijuana. The resultant improvised drawings represent the collective memories and oral histories from that part of the Mexico-U.S. border
Jesus Sera, Dishwasher (2018) by Sam ComenSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Against a forest of kitchen utensils and stainless steel, his gaze directed upwards and bearing a slight smile, Jesus Sera projects dignity and pride. This portrait is part of Sam Comen’s Working America series, in which he documents and pays homage to the multicultural immigrant American workforce in his native Los Angeles. His photographs of behind-the-scenes laborers, such as dishwashers and shoemakers, acknowledge his sitter's contributions to society. The artist notes, "Through diligence, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit, these new Americans seek a chance to better their lives and the lives of their children through the universally acknowledged mandate of rolling up their sleeves and going to work."
Monroe, LA (2016) by Richard GreeneSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
THIRD PRIZE (tie)
In this portrait of carefree teenagers passing the time outdoors on a sunny afternoon, the boldest fronts the group, posing proudly for the camera. With arms crossed and a playfully defiant head-tilt, she asserts her presence with a joyful fearlessness. To her left, another girl bears an expression of sweetness and attitude. The boys in the back look toward the figure in the front row and smile. Shades of blue smattered across the picture plane and the hot pink building in the background accentuate the group’s energy and dynamism. These kids are in their element. Richard Greene captured this display of teen spirit while passing through the outskirts of Monroe, Louisiana.
Legacy (2017) by Wayde McIntoshSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
THIRD PRIZE (tie)
In this portrait by Wayde McIntosh, a woman regards us while we scan every detail of her surroundings: a cascading houseplant, a packed bookshelf which prominently displays a copy of the Times magazine with "Black Lives Matter" on the cover. A photograph of two men with their right hands on their hearts. According to the artist, "A portrait should not only be a likeness of a sitter. The setting should also help in establishing the sitter's history, personality, and character." The subject is McIntosh’s friend, the painter Jordan Casteel. As the granddaughter of civil rights leader Whitney Young Jr., Casteel carries on his legacy of asserting the dignity of people of color.
Secrets (2017) by Lauren HareSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Like a film still, Secrets by Lauren Hare invites the viewer into a cinematic narrative. A scene that is at first lighthearted shifts to a darker mood upon closer looking. Hare’s photographic practice focuses on the complexities of identity, concepts of universal human experience and emotion, and the intersection of one’s private and public life. This portrait is part of a larger body of work influenced by the artist’s “interests in human emotion and fascination with the power of color.”
Black Virgin Mary (2018) by Adrian Octavius WalkerSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
This image is part of Adrian Octavius Walker’s series We Matter, which explores male beauty traditions, how they function as signs of kinship, and how they are perceived outside of their communities. In this photograph, the sitter’s direct gaze and the reference to the Virgin Mary in the title conjure ideas of beauty and martyrdom while foregrounding the subject’s vulnerability.
Excerpt from Self-Portrait (2017) by Natalia García ClarkSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
This silent video by Natalia García Clark is framed by the question: “How many steps will it take me to disappear from your perspective?” As the artist’s body enters the expansive landscape, the video camera becomes a stand-in for the viewer. García Clark then walks straight ahead, away from us, toward the horizon. For the viewer, the subject’s steps into the distance are hard to count, and the measure of the experiment becomes the time it takes to stop seeing her. Perhaps, she is simultaneously in the process of becoming visible to someone else.
Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Finalists of 2019
The competition encourages artists to submit artworks that challenge the definition of portraiture. This year’s competition received entries in a variety of media and reflect the very compelling and diverse approaches that today’s artists are using to tell the American story through portraiture. We welcome you to scroll through this year's finalists. To immerse yourself in each portrait and read more about the work, click on the artwork or the portrait's title.
The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is made possible by the Virginia Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Endowment, established by Virginia Outwin Boochever and continued by her children.