Bring Back the Portrait

If you are in LA you must visit the Tear Down Gallery’s pop up show, “Who Are These People?”

Emmy Award nominated Set Decorator, Don Diers has been collecting portraits from thrift stores, yard sales, and trash heaps since 1980. This impressive collection features over 300 original portraits painted from the late 1800’s to the present day that surely would have been lost to history had it not been for Diers’ passion

Regina O'Brien and her daughter Rae

Regina O’Brien and her daughter Rae

and keen eye. The show is located in an old house in Silver Lake that was recently purchased by another set decorator, Regina O’Brien, and her husband, Hardy Wronske, of Heyday Partnership. They plan on tearing down the structure to build a new family compound of their own. While waiting for their building permits they are putting the building to good use by hosting events for the local community.

Upon entry into the house-turned-gallery I felt like I was walking in to the living room of a great aunt or distant in-law that I was forced to visit but was surprisingly glad to see once I was there. The raw venue created the perfect background in which to view these curious faces. Crying children in forced matching outfits, traditional poses of family statesmen, women with flowers, or the private moment of secret lovers are just some of the unpretentious people staring back at the viewer.

Just one of the many walls filled with portraits

Just one of the many walls filled with portraits

What the painters lacked in technique they more than made up for in the use of color, humor, style, and intimacy with their subject. Across the room spectators were taking photos of one another next to faces to whom they shared an uncanny likeness. Sometimes they recognized a long forgotten family member in the strange portraits or were reminded of a similar heirloom that had been banned to the basement to collect dust for eternity.

The frames, the back ground furniture, wallpaper, and clothing all gave context to the time and place of when these portraits were painted. With the expert eye of a Set Decorator, Diers was able to see a connection between forgotten objects as he trolled thousands of stores and yard sales across the United States.

As I looked at the collection I could not help but wonder if we are losing the excitement of the treasure hunt with all it’s surprises, dead ends, and inspirational discoveries by shopping more often on the Internet? We live in an age when all our photographs and “selfie’s” are filed in a chip somewhere in the ether. How will we be remembered in the 22nd Century? Will our future selves search through videotapes or microchips to enjoy a view of their ancestors?

Fortunately, we will have a chance to hear some hypothetical stories about these people as Diers and O’Brien have invited the public to return on September 17th to share a written fictional biography of their favorite portrait. The Gallery will only open the doors to view the collection for this particular evening. Even if you don’t want to write your own piece, you won’t want to miss attending somebody else’s fantastical family reunion.

Don Diers and Susan Benjamin channeling portraits

Don Diers and Susan Benjamin channeling portraits

Diers putting together the family groupings

Diers putting together the family groupings

One Comment on “Bring Back the Portrait”

  1. tammy hart

    sue i always appreciate your wonder and excitement in exploring whimsical offerings.
    this is the richness of life and you engage in this to the fullest!

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