Jane Flanagan is a beautiful writer. Please read her essay “Thoughts On Facelessness”, and check out her blog spot Ill Seen Ill Said.

Vicki Smith and thoughts on facelessness

There was a recent kerfuffle about the number of book covers featuring faceless women. I understand the arguments made, but – at a visceral level – it’s not at all how I react to faceless images. In fact, I love them.

I love the mystery that shrouds them, the fact that we project a state of mind onto a body, uncertain what expression the face is wearing. When it comes to a book’s character, I especially like having faces remain somewhat elusive – for me such visual details are most beautifully blurred when reading. And it’s one of the things I sometimes dislike about movies; that they make concrete too much. And, while that experience can be beautiful too, it becomes other than it was (I’ve written about this before, here and here).

Faceless portraits aren’t didactic. We can see them as projections or mirrors or imaginings, vague or vivid. I often become more involved in these images and, contrary to the “objectification” responses that stemmed from the NYT piece, they make me wonder more about the person or character portrayed; their internal state becomes much more salient to me than superficial appearance or facial features. (I also think it’s interesting that I very often imagine pensive or serene sorts of expressions, not passionate exertions or turmoil).

I’ve described before the gorgeous coma of solitude that I feel when I’m in water — you all know what a waterbaby I am! To me, Vicki Smith‘s paintings capture this beautifully. And in their facelessness, they resonate more deeply and more mysteriously. I like to think that in those eyes there’s something beautiful and introspective and unsayable, really, a very private kind of awareness, timelessly suspended.

You can see more of Vicki Smith’s work over on Bau-Xi.

Posted by Jane Flanagan