Portraits by Dana Gluckstein
Exhibition: February 1–April 13, 2017
Lecture and book signing: Feb. 9 at 7:00 pm in BRAGG 103
Reception following in the Baldwin Photographic Gallery
Dana Gluckstein has photographed iconic figures including Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, and Muhammad Ali, as well as award-winning advertising campaigns for clients such as Apple and Toyota. Her portraits are held in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Her book, DIGNITY: In Honor of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the associated international museum exhibition, DIGNITY: Tribes in Transition, have received international acclaim and awards.
DIGNITY, in association with Amnesty International for its 50th anniversary, helped create a tipping point for President Obama to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The DIGNITY exhibition presented at the U.N. in Geneva in 2011. Gluckstein addressed the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland in 2013 on how art can impact the state of the world. The exhibition has been touring European and U.S. museums since 2011 and continues through 2020. Gluckstein is currently working in association with Amnesty International USA on an advocacy campaign to end discrimination and sexual assaults of Native American and Alaskan Native women.
Gluckstein graduated from Stanford University, where she studied psychology, painting, and photography, and realized the power of images to shape consciousness. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.
STATEMENT FROM LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART
Despite their allure and sophistication, modern portraits are in general limited to those superficial aspects of the sitter that can be eloquently lighted, artfully posed, and objectively rendered by the camera’s lens. Even one of the finest fashion and portrait photographers, Richard Avedon, admitted that “the surface is all you’ve got.” At the same time, while no single photographic portrait can justly capture an inner soul or the varied nuances if anyone’s psyche, it would seem nevertheless that something quite vital is lacking in the manner in which portraits are created today.
The portraits taken by Dana Gluckstein over the course of the last decade evidence a clear attempt to reinvest portraiture with that something that was lost sometime ago. And that something is nothing less that the desire, or the requirement, to express the character and moral quality of the sitter in such a way that far more than a likeness is suggested if not exactly revealed. Her subjects, whether a Haitian worker, a blind Masai elder, a Mayan woman, or an Australian aboriginal artist, are, as it were, simply fellow travelers encountered along the way; yet with all the cool delineation afforded by modern photographic equipment and techniques, Gluckstein succeeds in bestowing upon her sitters a sense of stilled dignity, a humaneness entirely devoid of any temporary, fleeting, or accidental quality.
The dispassionate remove common to most modern portraits is all but absent in these images; in its stead is a passionate complicity between artist and sitter that allows each subject to be memorialized with both beauty and grace. In the end, Gluckstein’s portraits are serene theatrical performances; intelligently directed by the artist and enacted with pride by the subjects in front of the silent audience of the camera’s lens.
Robert A. Sobieszek
Curator, Department of Photography
Los Angeles County Museum of Art