Portraiture is no longer the force it was before the advent of photography. A camera can be more effective and efficient than a painter at capturing an image, so it is not enough for portraits to simply record. To thrive in a modern world, the historic form must interpret.
An exhibition at Science Museum Oklahoma through Aug. 29 features a series of portraits by Oklahoma City artist Scott Henderson, whose stylized and fantastical embellishments of his subjects show that photography still has a ways to go before supplanting the artistic mind and a painter's hand.
"I have always been fascinated with alternate realities," Henderson said. "So I really have the opportunity to see those around me turned into something more spectacular, more mysterious and complex. I feel it gives the subject an escape into a place other than the day-to-day mundane world."
The subjects are Henderson's friends and family, so he started each piece with an insight into the inner workings of each person sitting for him. The result is often flowing with lush, Elizabethan gowns adorned with flocks of ribbons tangling and fluttering in the air, or canvases bearing cryptic lettering and shreds of maps floating across like thoughts.
"All the settings come from the personalities and sensibilities of the subject," he said. "The quiet will turn loud with color and whimsy, the bold becomes mystical, and the beautiful becomes even more grandiose."
These paintings represent a new approach for Henderson, who normally doesn't work with portraits, let alone use his close relations as the subjects.
"I wanted to do this because it's always fun to break into something different, and it has been great fun to play with the images of those that surround me," he said. "I have really enjoyed transforming my friends and family into something for everyone to behold and enjoy."
In addition to the portraits, Henderson has debuted some of his most recent collage works, which he said aren't traditional cut-and-paste, but instead utilize Adobe Photoshop and some hearty printer experimentation.
"I did not it want to come out just looking like a computer-generated printout, so one day, I ran watercolor paper through my home printer and tried to manipulate the ink. It did not work so well," he said. "I started toying around with glues on the paper. It gives it a coating, so the ink will not penetrate the paper as quickly. A good matte Mod Podge worked the best, and the results came out to be wonderful."
Science Museum Oklahoma might seem an odd venue for an art show, but Henderson sees a similarity in the curiosities packed into the museum and the inquisitive minds of artists.
"There is a relationship in the minds of artists and scientists," he said. "They're trying to figure something out, but they don't quite know what they're looking for. They have a question in their minds, and are always trying to find an answer."
Scott Henderson's work is on display through Aug. 29 at Science Museum Oklahoma, 2100 N.E. 52nd