Bakker's Galesburg Portrait Project Highlights a Community's Value, Dignity - Photogallery

For John Bakker, professor of art and design, socially engaged art can combat both those trends. As an artist, Bakker’s…

Posted by Trinity Christian College on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Throughout history, painted portraits have been reserved for the wealthy and powerful. In today’s disposable society, selfies can be instantly snapped and posted.

For John Bakker, professor of art and design, socially engaged art can combat both those trends. As an artist, Bakker’s preferred medium is painting portraits of members of different communities. “The act of painting someone’s portrait is demonstrating that they have value and dignity,” he said.

Last fall, Bakker served as artist in residence at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. While there he launched the Galesburg Portrait Project, where he began capturing images of 399 residents on 310 wooden panels. The panels can be stacked into a large arrangement. The project is designed to be reconfigured and moved so it can travel to different parts of Galesburg.

For Galesburg, which was economically hard hit after several factories closed, the project is a way of saying its residents matter, Bakker said.

Tracking down 399 different pictures to represent about 1% of the city’s population was not an easy task. Bakker based his portraits from pictures that people took of themselves, so he needed willing subjects to submit their own photos to someone they didn’t know. He was also determined to find a cross-section of city. Bakker also had to actively seek out veterans, farmers, and one-time workers at Galesburg’s now-shuttered Maytag plant to ensure those groups were included.

Back at Trinity, Bakker is finishing up the last of his panels. He is also planning to print subjects’ names and stories on each of the panels. Eventually, he would like to post individual images online so that those in Galesburg can share and comment on them.

To see the nearly completed project and learn more about Bakker and his work, visit http://www.johnbakker.info/