American Portraiture
Alison Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1972), "Anthony Cuts under the Williamsburg Bridge, Morning," 2020, marquetry hybrid (wood veneers, oil paint, acrylic paint, inkjet prints, shellac, and sawdust on wood), 73 1/16 x 53 3/8 in., collection of the artist

Portrait Paintings On View >
The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today
National Portrait Gallery
Washington, D.C.
through February 26, 2023

This April, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) announced the winners of the 2022 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

This is the sixth edition of an initiative launched in 2006 thanks to the bequest of Virginia Outwin Boochever, a long-time docent at the NPG.

Essentially a triennial (despite the pandemic’s best efforts), the program seeks to reflect the ever-changing nature of American portraiture.

In this latest cycle, the NPG received more than 2,700 open-call submissions, all made since 2019 by established and emerging artists throughout the U.S. and its territories. The jury ultimately selected 42 artworks as finalists, with just eight of them as nominees for three prizes.

NPG director Kim Sajet announced that the $25,000 first prize would go to the Brooklyn-based artist Alison Elizabeth Taylor.

Through the process she has developed and named “marquetry hybrid,” Taylor used vivid paints, inkjet prints, and the natural grains of more than 100 veneers to create a multilayered portrait of the Brooklyn hair groomer Anthony Payne.

With his workplace shuttered by the pandemic, Payne offered donation-based haircuts to support Black Lives Matter, and Taylor proceeded to make drawings and photographs of him that informed her winning work. (Her prize also encompasses a new commission to create a portrait of a living individual for the NPG’s collection.) Second prize went to Tom Jones of Wisconsin, and the third to Pao Houa Her of Minnesota.

Now that the competition is over, visitors can enjoy the exhibition titled “The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today.” Organized by NPG curators Taína Caragol and Leslie Ureña, it presents all 42 finalist works, which range from traditional to conceptual in every possible medium: painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, video, even performance.

Further reflecting the democratization of portraiture in our time, the winner of the People’s Choice Award will be announced this October, and next spring the exhibition will begin a lengthy national tour.

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