The Fussy Eye: Implied Visage

A face in a bag.

There are a number of busts and portraits in the group show waggishly called Give Me Head, but my favorite wouldn't look out of place at the supermarket. So ingrained is our need to scan and study facial features that it only takes a few folds and creases for Mark Mumford to suggest a human likeness with a paper shopping bag. Wall-mounted on a metal arm, the untitled 1999 work is at eye level, as if gazing back at you. The wrinkled brown paper makes one think of aged skin, and the constriction below could be a wattled throat. The square corners are almost brows, or a particularly severe haircut. Chin and nose are easy to discern in the bunched paper, but the truth is that Mumford didn't have to put a lot of effort into the thing. Our minds supply the rest of the physiognomy; we're hard-wired to recognize and respond to faces. Or rather, we create them, which is part of Mumford's point. From rock formations to tree trunks to buildings, we find a way to correlate nose, mouth, and eyes to such material. Appropriately, the bag is a container, an empty vessel for our imaginings. (Perhaps it briefly enveloped Mumford's own head, giving it shape?) However humble, it's been imparted with a certain human dignity. After all, not all portraits need to be painted with oils or sculpted from marble. 

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