Elizabeth Berdann | The Emotions, or…

The Emotions, or The Physiognomical Structures of Expression/A Visual Examination in Miniature/of the/Conformation of the Features/In Relation To/The Passions of the Mind./Performed, and Precisely Rendered/In 80 Watercolour Self-Portraits/By the Artist,/Geometrically Arranged For The Viewer/so as to/Encourage Comparison and Reflection./An Original Work of Art/Inspired By Various Scientific Efforts Through The Ages,/Including Those Of/Aristotle, Lavater, Darwin and Ekman, 2011

Watercolor on ceramic alumina, frames, watch crystals
42” x 234”; 80 images, each 1-½”

A pair of bookplates from a 1789 Encyclopedia Britannica served as the inspiration for this installation. These antique engravings, illustrating “The Passions”, remained in my studio for three decades. Finally, in 2009 I began work on The Emotions…

The Emotions… is an 80-piece installation of watercolor self-portraits that uses the portrait miniature genre to explore the entire range of facial expressions. The piece raises questions about how we decipher and interpret the human face. The structure of the work refers back to the Enlightenment’s interest in the “science” of physiognomy and the cataloguing of “The Passions”, as well as the 19th Century’s fascination with the natural world.  In fact, this urge to scientifically interpret the face has its roots as far back as Aristotle, and is still a subject of research, with the recent studies of “microexpressions” (useful for corporate human resource departments, and also to help social development of autistic individuals), and facial recognition technology (of particular use in homeland security, for example).

When exhibited, a questionnaire for viewers accompanies this installation.

See also my Video on Recent Work page