let’s face it #1.

face italy 2

The Face, the first sight we see after birth and forever after it becomes our default image. In clouds, the bark of trees and in the flames in the fireplace we see faces before anything else.

face Italy 1

I am very far indeed from being a portrait painter but faces have a way of insinuating themselves into my work, haunting faces from dreams and strange faces of people and beings I have never met but who obviously make their home somewhere inside of me. I’ve been looking at and thinking about faces a lot recently – sculpted and painted faces in art, the faces of citizens I rub shoulders with daily on the street, in stores and on public transit and the faces of my blogging community over there in the side-bar (no doubt quaffing a few while they wait) :). How can the faces of we millions all be so different – no two the same – unnumbered variations on a single theme? I am flummoxed and delighted by this mystery.

face Italy 4

The posted images are some of many I photographed in Italy where sculpted faces emerge in low and high relief from doors, walls, fountains and statuary in every ancient street and piazza. Most often these faces express anger, agony or dark emotion – always, it seems, with mouths agape.

face italy 3

What directive do you imagine the commissioned artist received that resulted in such fearful symmetry?

all photos by clinock

17 thoughts on “let’s face it #1.

  1. It is amazing how faces seem to be in everything, in clouds, in curtains, shades, trees, even houses remind us of faces… This is a nice collection angry ones in this posting! Why would they be made with such an angry expression, to scare intruders?


    1. So right Ina – I’ve been seeing faces recently on the front of vehicles, tools in my tool box and household objects – just yesterday I swear my bathtub faucet winked at me ;). To scare intruders is the best theory I’ve heard, however it seems to be a cultural thing. You will see in my next post that similar sculptures in Mexico appear to be much more peaceful…what do you see in your part of the world?


  2. At the root of things we seek to identify and to see the faces of everything. Perhaps that is the reason for the vegan rule “Nothing with a face” yet so many of us see faces in fields and flowers, in hill and seed. Following that rule, sustenance might be difficult indeed. When I am playing with patterns in my art, I grow surprised at the faces popping out of the abstract. Thank you John and may the eyes always have it, dotted or otherwise 🙂


    1. Astute observations as always from you Gary, thank you. Yes…I believe that most visual artists have this same experience although not all allow the emerging faces to remain, depending on the subject and intent of the work…(I only dot my eyes when making Op Art 😉 )…


  3. Great post John……..raises many issues…..idenity, emotions, purpose etc. Love the George Bernard Shaw quote at the top of the post. Also, like you, I have always been facinated by the endless variations ….without repeat on people’s faces. Awesome! Then apply it to all other things and it is staggering! How could all this be possible without something way beyond anything our feeble minds could ever imagine……….


    1. …and great comment Robert… you are right-on – our individuality on so many levels is staggering and mind-boggling and the more we recognize this the more of it we see…thank you mate…


  4. These really are quite unsettling but fascinating works! Love the idea of nightmares and expression within this, truly such an interesting way of looking at these often overlooked works.


    1. Thank you PA and nice to meet you…I agree – the thousands of street sculptures in Italy are often not seen by visitors intent on heading to the next ‘official’ site of historical interest. For me the art of back alley doors and walls are worth spending time exploring…


  5. Beautiful images and a very though provoking post. I wonder about the ancient deity or god looking over a spring, a hill, a tree in old pagan Europe…supplanted by ‘the faith,’ ‘the church.’ And some sort of holdover reminding us of the face of the earth (consciousness). Not sure how that would apply to doors or walls though….a motif?


    1. I really enjoyed your musings Steven and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – the Faces do evoke images of pagan spirits and deities of ancient Europe that, I’m sure, still continue to exist in racial memory…


  6. Perhaps the directive could have been: Keep the citizenry on their toes! Keep them skittering about the streets feeling uncertain of everything but fear. Keep them on edge so they need US (the powerful ones)!
    Quite a bit of that would have applied to us recently. Perhaps I have internalised too much!


    1. Now you have raised my curiosity Philippa…by ‘recently’ do you mean in Europe? What happened to make you skitter so fearfully about the streets? As to that theory applying to the illiterate masses who were contemporaries to these faces, yes, absolutely..one has only to look at the carved scenes of the Last Judgement above the entrance to Italian churches and cathedrals to know that intimidation was ubiquitous…”Do as we say or you will be cast into the jaws of demons and the fires of hell”…


      1. We were in Rome right at the end of September John. For 14 hours only. I have told half the story in a recent blog “Off to Rome? Don’t bother with the Gallienus chain!” I might post the other chapter soon.


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