Cathy Cone: Portals and Portraits

March 11 - June 11, 2023

Each of Cathy Cone’s painted tintype portraits begins with a photograph or scan of a tintype from her personal collection, which she has been amassing since the late 1970s. Cone modifies the images using gouache, watercolor, collaging, stamping, drawing, and digital drawing; sometimes she works directly on the tintype itself. The resulting images are ghostly yet tender and elicit a sense of curiosity about the lives of the subjects we see looking back at us. By incorporating tintypes from the late-nineteenth century, Cone offers a visual sense of connection with the past and calls on memory and feelings of nostalgia.

In her series of photogravures, Cone plays with our innate desire to connect with the portraits’ subjects. Obscuring the subjects’ faces with clouded or opaque layers of imagery, Cone creates a barrier that we cannot penetrate. Unable to fully perceive the faces portrayed, we are denied the intimacy that the portraits might otherwise allow. This push and pull between visibility and obscurity calls into question the very purpose of a portrait and invites us to consider the process of knowing and understanding ourselves and each other. 

— Sarah Freeman, curator

Portals and Portraits includes select photographs from three distinct series that investigate the portrait. Many of us have immediate psychological reactions to the human face. The face is one of the primary ways in which we connect with one another and is a creative portal for magic and alchemy. My intention is for each photograph not only to stand alone but also to converse with the other photographs in the same series. The portraits integrate media, including painted tintypes, photogravures, platinum prints, and archival pigment prints. I’m interested in the translations between these media and in the remixes of the subjects as a meditative inquiry.

Transforming and upgrading my consciousness, photography guides me to a deeper understanding of the world. I begin by discovering an image. The image emerges and appears as a rather strange surprise. This surprise is the charge that I take back into my studio as “something” found to translate. I then go to work by responding more directly to the image in order to rediscover through a new conscious intention. I want to connect and have my hand more in it. The process of finding and constructing what I understand and know links up with what I don’t know or can’t see. If I’m lucky, they meld into a new image that lives on the threshold.

— Cathy Cone




March 11, Saturday, 11 a.m. — Celebration of Spring Exhibits
May 11, Thursday, 7 p.m. — Artist & Curator Conversation: Cathy Cone and Sarah Freeman


Virtual tour
Installation views
Ask the Artist!


Poignant Portfolio no. 44: Cathy ConeOne Twelve (4/28/23)