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Painting Portraits (2006)


Portraits composed of textures sampled from the MOMA's collection of modern painting.


MOMA, portraits, texture, sample, color, painting, find & replace.


Painting Portraits is a digital painting that displays portraits of people visiting a gallery. It is mounted on the wall ... as any painting would. Like the artist who draws charcoal portraits of tourists on the streets in every city, PaintingPortraits analyses the colors and forms of the subject and creates a composition.

This composition, however, is not a sketch. Rather, it is a composite image (a collage) using thousands of texture samples collected from the MOMA's collection of 20th century modern paintings, from the expressionists to the suprematists. In other words, the brush strokes of infamous painters such as Picasso, Van Goth, Monet, Kandisky, Chagall, Seurat are all re-used to create the color palette for these computer-generated portraits.

Painting Portraits runs on a customized software application. Its compositional method involves closely analyzing the visitor, to determine the colors of their hair, clothing and skin, looking closely for areas of high detail. Like a painter, it begins by painting larger areas of the image, color by color, before moving on to the more detailed sections of the composition.

This time-based work takes about 10 minutes to complete and is completely free of charge. In the case that the project attracts some critical attention or achieves some level of distant fame - even just 15-seconds - it might start expecting the big bucks and begin seeking out a new, wealthier clientele.