The National Portrait Gallery presents “The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today”

The National Portrait Gallery’s triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition celebrates excellence in the art of portraiture. As the realization of a donation made by Virginia Outwin Boocher (1920-2005) to the Smithsonian, the contest and this exhibit demonstrate the power of one individual to have a transformative impact.

The 42 portraits currently exhibited in Outwin 2022: the American portrait today were selected through an open call that garnered more than 2,700 applications from artists working in the United States and Puerto Rico. They have responded with works that engage contemporary society, many of which offer new insights into the unprecedented reality experienced at the time surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

These selected finalists create works of art in a wide range of media, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, textiles, video and performance. They demonstrate how vast and changing the genre of portraiture can be, highlighting the power of gender to make visible a multitude of life experiences.

The winner of the 2022 Outwin Boolever Portrait Contest was Alison Elizabeth Taylor, whose portrait “Anthony Cuts under the Williamsburg Bridge, Morning” (2020) was inspired by the walks the artist took in her Brooklyn neighborhood during the shutdowns of COVID-19. She met hairdresser Anthony Payne, who, with his workplace closed, had taken his scissors, mirror and chair to the street.

In her process, which she developed and called “inlay hybrid,” Taylor incorporates paints, inkjet prints, and the natural grains of more than 100 veneers. The marquetry, with its wood-encrusted combination, can “commemorate,” she notes. She acknowledges the history of the craft, which was favored by Louis XIV when he acquired furniture for Versailles. By giving Payne this “royal treatment”, Taylor aims to pay tribute to him, explaining, “I want him to see how much his example meant to me.”

See the full list of finalists and learn more at portraitcompetition.si.edu.

Julia P. Cluff