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head and shoulders portrait of a man with grey hair wearing a white tank top; another face oriented sideways is visible on his proper left shoulder
Don Barchardy, Don Bachardy

1995, American, Gift of Don Bachardy and Chris Isherwood Foundation, SC 2021.4.1

The Faces We Wear

Meredith Diamond '23 is a Computer Science major and East Asian Studies minor. She has been working for the Cunningham Center for two years now. Join her as she delves deeper into a self-portrait that caught her interest.

How do you present yourself? When you get dressed in the morning, how do you hope to be perceived? What parts of yourself do you share on social media?

Looking through the SCMA’s collection of self-portraits, I wonder how I would portray myself in a museum. I could present myself through a candid photo, giving the viewer a look into my daily life. Or I could set up a studio shoot, reveal a secret through intentional metaphors and imagery. Maybe it wouldn’t even be a self-portrait. I could commission an artist friend, someone who knows me well, to paint me how they see me.

In our collection, I found a self portrait by Don Bachardy which immediately drew me in. Little did I know, this piece would surprise me in more ways than one. Bachardy is a well known portraitist based in the LA area. He both draws and paints his portraits, although this piece was created with watercolor pencils. What originally drew me into this work was the bright colors and harsh lines creating Bachardy’s face. However, I became much more interested in the second face that sits on Bachardy’s shoulder. Who does this mystery face belong to?

"close up of tilted feminine face on shoulder of man"

Detail of Don Bachardy

Originally, I thought maybe it was a mask. Perhaps this face is who he presents to the world or who his close friends and family know him as. The first face follows the same pattern as many of his other self portraits. Deep wrinkles, bright reds, and a white tank top. This face resembles his physical bone structure more than the second. The “mask” is clearly not his own face. With soft blue eyes and upturned lips, this mask-like persona is smaller and much more feminine. 

What is especially interesting about this mask is that it becomes a part of himself. The line of her nose lines up perfectly with his shoulder. The blush on her cheek shades the side of his neck. When I cover the parts of her face outside Bachardy's silhouette, she almost completely disappears. Her eye and mouth are the only features that remind us she is still there. Is she part of Bachardy’s history? A loved one who helped shape him into who he is today? 

"head and shoulders portrait of a man with grey hair wearing a white tank top; another face oriented sideways is visible on his proper left shoulder"

Self Portrait, Don Bachardy, 2002, American, Image Courtesy of Craig Krull Gallery

I turned to the internet to see if Bachardy ever created other portraits with two faces. I found two self-portraits, but it seems he rarely if ever displayed these. He includes one in a slideshow on the front page of his website, but they do not appear in his portfolio on that site. Instead, I found them in the archive of his works on the Craig Krull Gallery site, under the title "Other Portraits." 

Because of my unsuccessful search, I reached out to the Craig Krull Gallery which represents Don Bachardy to ask about this mystery face. They responded by telling me about how Bachardy creates portraits everyday. Sometimes he doesn’t like the direction they are going or maybe the sitter had to leave part way through the session. In those cases, he turns the unfinished portrait into a self-portrait. The second face in this work is not an alternative side to himself, but rather a separate subject. 

Mystery solved! Don Bachardy intentionally used the second face (or should I say first) to build his own portrait. I had so much fun researching this piece. Next time you see a work of art you’re curious about, look into it! Who knows, you might find a gem like I did!

"brightly painted portrait of man staring forward with second head in background on left"

Self Portrait, Don Bachardy, 1995, American, Image Courtesy of Craig Krull Gallery

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