Likeness: Empathy in Art


Assembled together are the recent people of my life, a body of portraits that is, in the phrase of Alice Neel, "a collection of souls." This thesis serves to contextualize the work, as well as reflect the process by which it was made, as both an explanation of the portraits it contains and a portrait of myself as the artist who made them. The work is considered from the same viewpoints that humans are: as minds, bodies, and souls, and works to communicate the theme of empathy between humans through the act of painting on each of these levels.

Contemporary portraiture as a process for the cultivation of empathy is indebted most notably to the accomplishments of Alice Neel, and now enters a realm of interdisciplinary discourse. As such, my pictures may be "read" as performance, as therapy, as propaganda, and as narratives in or outside of the context of Art History. Further, my work rejects the "male gaze" and suggests a new kind of looking - gayze - which is an act of identification with and eroticization of the bodies I paint.

Gayze is a reciprocal exchange of power, vulnerability, and permission to look, in which men paint men as both desirous and desiring. Finally, the paintings are ritualistic, meditative pictures that reinforce the commonly held spiritual idea of connectedness and sameness between all things, echoed in the profoundly creative process of painting.


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Thesis Completion



Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program



Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences; Portrait painting







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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