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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Two: Travel Incongruities > Faceless, El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, Santa Barbara, California, 2014
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Faceless, El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, Santa Barbara, California, 2014

The buildings of this Spanish military outpost, dating back to 1782, have been either restored or reconstructed. As I ended my tour, I entered a room that was a family’s living quarters, and this incongruous vision greeted me. This life sized painting fills a board six five feet tall. The figure itself is striking in its color and gesture. A hole appears where the face should be, which tells us that the painting is there for to visitors take “selfies” of themselves transformed into an 18th century woman. My photograph of this figure without a face tells an entirely different story. It becomes a painting of a person forever lost to memory. The painting throws a large shadow on to the wall behind it, making the hole where the face should be darker and more ghostly and incongruous than expected. I also placed the figure off to one side of my frame, implying that the painting stands alone within an utterly empty room.

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Phil Douglis23-Jun-2015 21:17
I enjoy your interpretation of this woman -- half the population is made up of women, yet for centuries they have largely been deliberately obscured by such institutions as the church, the military, the law, the sciences, and the government. Only in the 20th and 21st centuries has this "commonplace invisibility" been challenged and overcome, yet still not entirely.
sunlightpix23-Jun-2015 02:03
Thought provoking and so lonely. I sense a saddening yet commonplace invisibility for 18th century women.
Phil Douglis09-May-2015 20:08
You are right, Tim. When we think of history, we try to give it a familiar face. However history itself is essentially faceless because history is essentially created by groups of common people sharing a common purpose. And such common groups usually have no face, except for their leaders. In this instance, as I note in my caption, the painting represents a person forever lost to memory. And as you note here, the history of such common people is faceless.
Tim May08-May-2015 21:52
So much of history of the common people is faceless. I love your meaning here.
Phil Douglis22-Mar-2015 20:14
Thanks, Carol. Emptiness indeed. In the face. In the wall. In the very idea of taking your own picture within the body of a historical figure. There is a lonely, haunting quality to this image, and that was exactly what I felt when I entered this musty old space.
Carol E Sandgren22-Mar-2015 17:40
I like the faceless "head" and also the blank space to the right to compliment the emptiness. Interesting to see one of these amusement selfie things in such a place. Ironic indeed!
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