These portraits are the result of chance encounters, often a first meeting and the conversation between the subject and me. The text laid over the linocut portrait is taken verbatim from this initial conversation. The resulting composite allows for a first and a second impression.
The focus of each panel is a person whom the artist has met through a chance encounter. One of the pieces is of White’s smiling Utilities Reader, a round-faced middle-aged woman with eyeglasses gazes out of a scratchy background of cross-hatching. Her name is the title of this piece, Tammy. Tammy is flanked on each side by Bob (viewer’s left) and Clarence (viewer’s right); all three images hang on the main wall of the space staring over the audience, the other two are positioned on the next wall to the right. The text that runs on top of each portrait is appropriated from fragments of a private conversation that took place between the artist and stranger. The text is intentionally disjointed fragmental language and while they are devoid of contextual meaning, they serve as a personal connection between the artist and his subject.
White’s work is inspired by the social, but involves multiple interpretations and sharp appropriations of meaning. He talks at length about creating portraits that can somehow give his subjects new meaning and different value. He cracks a large grin when he imagines a young person coming back to him thirty years from now to revisit the work. To think of the speed of time and the artwork as a tribute to the moment, White is fixated on what that might mean down the road.
-from Watie White & The Chicago Project, Chicago Art Magazine, 2012