Artist Paints Portrait(s) of Galesburg’s People

The Artist-in-Residence this fall at Knox wants to paint a picture of the people of Galesburg — more than 300 of them.

During a three-month residency with the Knox Art Department,
John Bakker, a Chicago-based artist and educator, will be producing a
multi-part work he calls the Galesburg Portrait Project. His goal is
to make portraits of more than 300 local residents — at least 1% of
the city’s population.

“Since the mid 90s, I’ve been producing public artworks consisting of
hundreds of hand painted portraits of the people who make up various
communities,” Bakker explains. In 2004 he painted portraits of over
500 people from the neighborhood around Chicago’s 6th District Police
Station. In 2010 he created an exhibit featuring hundreds of portraits
based on photos from the on-line student directory at Wheaton College.

“Throughout history, portraits have been painted mostly for the
wealthy and powerful,” Bakker says. “What interests me is the way a
hand made portrait shows the unique meaning and dignity of the
individual. The time and attention given to painting a portrait is a
way of valuing people for who they are, not what they achieve or the
money they make.”

Painted portraits provide a striking contrast with our “culture of
instant images that are as disposable as they are convenient, as well
as the attractive but highly manipulated advertising images that
actually undermine our sense of dignity,” Bakker says.

Bakker has prepared more than 300 wooden panels. Ultimately the
individual panels will be arranged in a single massive display, 6 feet
tall and 20 feet wide, but can be reconfigured to fit a variety of
exhibit spaces. Because the portraits are on panels of boxes, the
project can be placed next to a wall, or free-standing in an exhibit

“My hope is that it will travel around the community to schools,
storefronts, public buildings before finding a permanent home in
Galesburg,” Bakker says.

The next step is soliciting photos from people who would like to be
included in the Galesburg Portrait Project. Photos can be e-mailed to Printed photos can be delivered in
person to Bakker at The Box, 306 E. Simmons. Submissions should
include the name and occupation of the person pictured.

“As an option, you can include a few words about Galesburg as a
community because I am considering the possibility of including your
text within the portraits,” Bakker says.

More information on the project and full instructions for submissions
are on-line at

The Knox College Artist-in-Residence is made possible by support from
Blick Art Materials, and hosted at The Box, a community arts space run
by the Knox Art Department and located at Simmons and Kellogg in