The progression of personal maturity is often listed as: dependence, independence, and, finally, inter-dependence. Sociology is displaying the same stages. Early human history saw significant gains in dependence with dictatorships. Recent history saw significant progress in individuality with the promotion of free markets. We are at a new stage as we question the value of the pursuit of personal gain. As individuals and entities we are starting to see the significance of shared values.
At the 2011 TED conference, JR, a French photographer, invited everyone to tell their stories through portraits. He commissioned individuals to post enlarged portraits in public places and helped the process by printing and shipping enlarged images to participants. He also commissioned groups to create choruses of personal histories in public spaces.
Four Baltimore artists—Bonnie Schupp, Kristin Stith, Deborah Patterson, and myself—became the hands of the concept. To heighten impact, we brought in a number of disparate players. A prolific real estate developer with ample wall space saw value in the art and opportunity to be a destination. Maryland Art Place, a non-profit institution that connects contemporary Baltimore artists to the global stage, saw value in the link between Baltimore artists and an international artist. Kearney O’Doherty, a for-profit entity that expands business opportunities in Baltimore, saw value in creating a culturally vibrant city. Gary Vikan, saw value in innovative artistic opportunities.
We came up with an idea to use portraits to emphasize the internal similarities between individuals rather than external differences. When the portraits were taken, each subject was asked, “What is your favorite color?” The thirty-six portraits represent a wide spectrum of Baltimore residents and were arranged by their color preference. The installation, Inside Out Baltimore, reinforces the message that what we have in common is not always visible to the eye.
Together, an international artist with a wish, local artists with practical skills, a developer with space, a non-profit with a mission, a for-profit with a vision, and an individual with inspiration came together to complete a work of art. The value experienced by all, and the city, would not have been possible without inter-dependence.
You can see the installation at 630 South Exeter.