Benton C Bainbridge: Gilroy Video Portraits
January 15 - April 15, 2022 (closed Valentine's Day weekend)
64 West 6th Street, Gilroy, CA 95020
Sundays, 11 AM - 3 PM and by appointment
The Gilroy Video Portraits continue Benton C Bainbridge's ongoing exploration of an old artistic tradition in a young medium. Traditional studio portraits present a moment fixed in paint or photochemical; electronic moving images offer a slice of time. What can a moving portrait reveal about its subject? Using video, can we engage the sitter as co-creator with the artist? Can filters function as masks or costuming, obscuring and revealing the subject much as makeup or fashion shapes a presence?
Bainbridge began making video portraits in 2012, as the word "selfie" entered our vocabulary. Inspired by Warhol's film portraits as seen in Chelsea Girls, Benton used video projections to light his sitters, expanding the live lighting tricks that Andy Warhol employed. In lieu of gels and gobos manipulated by hand, Bainbridge used VJ tools to paint his subjects with light. In 2013, the VHS Portraits at Eyebeam were shot on unique VHS tapes t flat screens. Fivdozen portraits were completed during the residency.
A commission from Deutsche Bank yielded Bainbridge's self-portraiture installation for Frieze Art Fair. Picturing You premiered in 2014 as a two-person interactive artwork in which two guests would portray each other using custom software and iPads. Picturing You was then reworked as a single channel artwork and exhibited at Everson Museum, Bandung International Digital Arts Festival, NACC in Bangkok and many other showings.
For his 6th Street Studios residency, Bainbridge expands the video portraiture series with new tools assembled during pandemic lockdown: a collection of analog image processing modules for flexible manipulation of video—without a computer. These modules allow for patch-programmable video synthesis. Members of the 6th Street community and visitors are invited to come sit for portraiture sessions, and to learn about the tools Benton uses to make video portraits.
Though I have family and friends around the Bay Area, I only knew Gilroy as "Garlic Town USA". When I applied for a residency at 6th Street Studios & Art Center, I proposed Gilroy Video Portraits as a way to meet the local creative community.
My media art practice is hardware based; the 6th Street residency gave me a creative space to keep my video synths hooked up and at the ready for walk-ins. I also enjoyed the time to focus on my work and to engage with regional artists from diverse backgrounds at exhibitions and fairs and art walks.
6th Street Art Center is centrally located in the culinary, entertainment and artistic center of Gilroy. The location is just off the main thoroughfare, ideal both for focus and easy access to food, drink, sunshine and people-watching. Around the corner is Emily McEwan-Upright's Gallery 1202, where I was able to meet exhibiting artists and their patrons. Though a small town, Gilroy boasted a large used book store that all my visiting friends knew about. Unfortunately, the owners retired and were closing up shop as my residency concluded.
Also important to my work were the locals who sold me old-school gear. I enjoyed talking with Craigslist sellers about their histories with the camcorders they sold to me—the 'patina' of obsolete image processing gear gives an aura of nostalgia to freshly-minted memories.
The team at the Art Center were also advocates for my art. They introduced me to local artists and a writer for the Gilroy Dispatch. The benefits of my residency extended way beyond the facilities to make and share art.
My residency at 6th Street Studios & Art Center significantly shaped a series of artworks which deepen my ongoing exploration of video portraiture. I'm grateful I had a chance to meet and work with the people of Gilroy and the region.
Benton C Bainbridge
mid-2022, Erie, PA