Perhaps nothing is more personal than a face. It is the primary locus for our relationships with others. And so the face is both the icon of our individuality and uniqueness as well as essential for community. This claim of course may be challenged in an age where the internet offers a kind of community – which despite Facebook – is very much a faceless network. I say essential for community because so much of who we are is found in the face and it is through the face that we most often represent ourselves to others. It is in face to face encounter that we are able to enter into deeper relationship and to come to know one another more intimately. But hiding is also possible.
The face can be employed as an instrument of deception, covering the truth about who we are, professing instead pretense and falsehood. Whether it is deeper relationship or deception, each is possible because of the communicative power of the human face. Theologian David Ford declares; “Each face is an interrupting summons to justice and peace, with endless ramifications for economics, politics, institutions and other structures.” Our consumerist society plays out its themes drawing on the power of the face to propagate its message. But more importantly the face is a common component of both personal and cultural memory.
When one thinks of cultural memory it is art that provides glimpses into the lives of those from centuries past. The human face has had a prominent role in the history of Western art. The sculptures of ancient Greece and Rome, the icons of early Christianity, the portrait in the Renaissance, the faces of bourgeois patrons of the arts or the distorted and troubled faces that appear in 20th century art all speak to the centrality of face for understanding our humanity and expressing our identity.
– John Franklin
Artwork – “FACE” by Maria Gabankova, oil on canvas |