articles
todd
camplin
2014
ALICIA HENRY
at Liliana Bloch Gallery through November 15th
by Todd Camplin  

A few weekends back, a high school theater teacher and I chaperoned some students to
a comic/sci-fi/nerd convention. The convention was a glut of pop culture eye candy with
people dressed up in outrageous costumes. Many convention goers were wearing masks of
huge franchises of mass marketed characters.  So when I suggested at dinner that our
group hit a few galleries, the last thing I expected to see was more masks and mysterious
faces. After we visited a few places in Deep Ellum, we came to Liliana Bloch Gallery and
the Faces of Alicia Henry.
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Out of all the shows we saw from the galleries, it seems that Alicia Henry had the most impact on
the students. Personally, I hadn’t paid much attention to the press images I saw of her work and
I think I might have even missed the show altogether if it weren’t for this impromptu trip. Which
makes me question why I sometimes discount things from images I see on the internet, because
clearly Henry’s objects had a greater impact in person. The students talked about how they
identified with one face or another. Issues of self-worth and self-image were batted around
while they moved to each piece. I was captured by how haunting each face felt. I could feel
the shame and struggle, yet perseverance these figures seem to be portraying. I was reminded
by my experience being poor when I was real young. Everything I had was hand me downs,
and so too these figures look as if they are wearing old worn out clothes. Even the masked
faces are hiding behind scraps. Henry draws you in, possibly making you a bit uncomfortable
with her faces, but then ultimately makes you consider her faces’ individual stories.
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I thought Alicia Henry’s work was a great contrast to the masks of the convention. Here was a
show of faces that connected to the students and myself on a cognitive and emotional level,
whereas the masked people at the convention were distant and a spectacle. After all, the
costumed people are representing well tread stories that have a mass amount of people
creating these stories and images, and the students all knew them. These characters were
set in personalities and plots. Essentially we checked our brains at the door. Henry made
us question and think about her mysterious characters that had unclear stories. Henry gave
us a framework, but individual narratives about the characters were left up to the viewer.
I imagined a few scenarios as did a few of the students. Henry allowed us to be creative
with our imagination while staying in her parameters of content.