“Written all over your face” by Martina Dodd examines six basic human emotions depicted in figurative artwork

22 Sep

Written all over your face

by Martina Dodd

I am fascinated by the way people communicate their feelings, ideas and thoughts.  Through written word, visual art and spoken language information can be shared by one person and interrupted by another.  Our emotional state can also be expressed in a variety of ways but the most universality recognized form is through our facial expressions.   Our body language speaks volumes even when we choose not to vocalize our feelings; from facial expressions to hand gestures, the body is consistently talking.

According to American psychologist, Dr. Paul Ekman, the six most basic emotions which can be easily understood regardless of culture and language are: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. With help from some of the artists represented by Morton Fine Art, let’s see what these emotions look like off the flesh and on the canvas.

Happiness:

Kesha Bruce. That they might be lovely, archival pigment print, 7/15. 12"x9"

Kesha Bruce. That they might be lovely, archival pigment print, 7/15. 12″x9″

Sadness:

 

Rosemary Feit Covey. Self Conscious 141103_1, mixed media 33"x28"

Rosemary Feit Covey. Self Conscious 141103_1, mixed media 33″x28″

Fear:

 

Laurel Hausler. Blue Beards Place, 2009 oil on canvas with xrays. 40”x30”

Laurel Hausler. Blue Beards Place, 2009 oil on canvas with xrays. 40”x30”

 

Anger:

 

Billy Colbert. King County, 2009 mixed media on paper. 29”x22”

Billy Colbert. King County, 2009 mixed media on paper. 29”x22”

 

 

Surprise:

 

Ethan Diehl. Vigilance, oil on canvas. 36”x60”

Ethan Diehl. Vigilance, oil on canvas. 36”x60”

 

 

Disgust: 

 

Rosemary Feit Covey, Red Handed, dimensions variable

Rosemary Feit Covey, Red Handed, dimensions variable

 

Although these emotions are seen as universal, cultural practices and norms can play a role in how emotions are revealed and concealed between different members of the community. For example, the indigenous West African system of writing known as nsibidi employs graphic signs to code and convey concepts. The meaning of these symbols are traditionally restricted to members of all male associations but in Victor Ekpuks’ Asian Ubaoikpa (Hip Sista) series the artist not only creates his own symbols in the same style of  the ancient script, but also situated women in the center of the conversation.  The color and texture evoke a visceral reaction within the viewer rather than illustrating a singular emotion or revealing the meaning of his symbols.

 

 

Victor Ekpuk. Asian Ubaoikpa (Hip Sista) #11. Acrylic on canvas, 60”x48”

Victor Ekpuk. Asian Ubaoikpa (Hip Sista) #11. Acrylic on canvas, 60”x48”

 

 

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