The Beard

While I was taking an afternoon tea break and reading new Art21 Guest Blogger Victoria Gannon’s introductory post from California, I had something of a mental stutter when my steady downward scroll hit upon this image in the writer’s survey of soon-to-be-featured artists.

Gina Tuzzi, Silver and Gold (2000), 2009. Acrylic on paper. (Source:

It’s spectacular strangeness aside, what gave me pause was a confused sense of having seen this before, unlikely as that seemed. What I soon realized was that the above painting had immediately put me in mind of this drawing by Toronto-based artist Winnie Truong, which I saw at MOCCA last month as part of the BMO 1st Art exhibition of recent visual art graduates across Canada.

Winnie Truong, Virility and Grace, 2010. Pencil crayon on paper. (Source:

Once I was able to dig out my freebie BMO 1st Art catalogue from the stack of other freebie catalogues in my files, it was easy enough to see that the two artists are operating from slightly different perspectives, no matter the links my mind had immediately conjured between these dewy-eyed, fantastically-furred man-heads floating on their white paper voids. But a deeper look at both artists’ websites revealed an common tangle of interests in weird and wonderful facial hair of all varieties. Gina Tuzzi’s fascination with beards runs so deep that she has a sub-category of her portfolio dedicated to the topic alongside the more generic choices of Drawings, or Paintings. And rightly so, they’re lovely objects if the images are anything to go by.

Gina Tuzzi, My Muse, 2008. Acrylic paint, paper and felt. (Source: Mareka Carter)

Given how accidentally this connection rose to the surface of my own immediate experiences, I’m now wondering if there’s some deeper, more pervasive vein of beard art that I’ve been unaware of until now. Anyone know of other examples? More importantly, could Matt Jelly have won Hamilton’s Ward 2 after all if he hadn’t gone for a shave first?

Gina Tuzzi will be featured in Victoria Gannon’s upcoming series of reports from California; in the meantime, visit her website for more examples of her practice.

For more about Winnie Truong, NOW Toronto‘s short interview is worth reading, especially for her described ideal studio working conditions: “Either in the morning or early afternoon, after a hot meal, with at least six hours of Battlestar Galactica downloaded on my laptop…” There’s a woman after my own heart.

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