Terzis' town of strangers

Artist's new show is made up of portraits of people she encountered around the world

Posted: Thursday, June 06, 2002

Jane Terzis got to know her subjects through her paintings.

For three years, the painter asked strangers she encountered around the world for permission to take their pictures. When the oil portraits - created from blurred copies of the photos - were complete, she mailed each of her subjects a copy.

"I tried to make them look as if they were just about ready to move, like they were just up for a second," Terzis said. "They were done when they would look back at me."

Thirteen selections from Terzis' 20-portrait series, "The Town Is Changing," will be displayed from Friday, June 7, to Friday, June 28, at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council Gallery.

The show first appeared at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. Dave Nicholls, curator of exhibitions at the Anchorage museum, said Terzis' work was chosen from a pool of about 100 artists.

"I think people were enthralled by it," Nicholls said. "I think we're so used to looking at photographs of people that when you actually come across a painting of somebody, it brings a different dimension. There's a lot more going on than the surface (appearance)."

The exhibit also appeared in Fairbanks.

The painting process was an intimate one, Terzis said.

"I spent a lot of time gazing into their eyes, and that was intense," she said. "That made me fall in love with them in a way. We don't do that with our eyes with people without a lot of trust. Of course, (it was) sort of one-sided, but for me, I just developed a very deep connection."

Terzis' subjects ranged from Charlotte and Wolfgang, a brother and sister encountered in the French Pyrenees, to Roger Romance, an actor Terzis met at Seattle's Democratic Campaign Headquarters on election night 2000. Mark, a carpenter, is the only Juneau resident included in the collection.

One portrait that struck a particular chord for the artist is "Taylor," a 7-year-old in a combat uniform and helmet. Terzis photographed him in Oct. 2001 outside a hardware store in Tampa, Fla.

"He was very tense," Terzis said. "He wore that uniform every day for a couple months after the (Sept. 11) attacks."

Another child inspired the title of Terzis' show.

"About 10 years ago, a painting of mine that's really pretty surreal was hanging on our kitchen wall," she said. "This little boy, a friend of mine's kid, was staring through the kitchen window at the painting."

Terzis invited him into the room for a closer look, then asked him what he thought the painting was about.

"He said, 'The town is changing,' " Terzis said. "That really stuck with me. As I got about eight or 10 of these going in my studio, I realized I was creating sort of a town even though they didn't know each other, and I suddenly found myself writing down, 'The Town Is Changing.' "

Terzis' work will be on exhibit at the JAHC Gallery until June 28. An opening reception will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 7, with a gallery talk by Terzis at 5:30 p.m. The gallery is at 260 North Franklin St.; call 586-2787 for more information.

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at geneviev@juneauempire.com.

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