Gallery attendees admire Yaron Michael Hakim’s self-portrait “Self-Portrait as a Guacamaya Yellow-Sided Conure” in SFSU’s Fine Arts Gallery. (Eian Gil / Golden Gate Xpress) (Eian Gil)
Gallery attendees admire Yaron Michael Hakim’s self-portrait “Self-Portrait as a Guacamaya Yellow-Sided Conure” in SFSU’s Fine Arts Gallery. (Eian Gil / Golden Gate Xpress)

Eian Gil

SF State’s Fine Arts Gallery opens doors to “Have you Seen Me?” exhibit

Featuring work from four artists, the exhibit explores the power of the gaze through self-portraiture and dynamic presentations of artwork.

March 2, 2023

Over the weekend, SF State’s Fine Arts Gallery premiered its “Have You Seen Me?” exhibit, curated by Gallery Director Sharon Bliss and Resident Curator Kevin B. Chen. Open to visitors Feb. 25 to March 29, the exhibit’s opening reception brought large groups of visitors to the gallery, who were able to experience the immersive works on display. 

In walking through the gallery’s doors, visitors are instantly drawn in by a swarm of eyes looking directly at the entrance. Suspended from the ceiling, prominently placed in the middle of the gallery, is artist Jamil Hellu’s series of self-portraits. 

Screen printed on pink-dyed lambskin, the portraits comment on the artist’s multiracial identity, bringing forward the larger discussion of public perception and stereotypes having to do with Arab culture. Upon exploration of the gallery, colorful and intense paintings by Yaron Michael Hakim engages the curiosity of visitors, encouraging movement within the space to explore the other artists. 

Lenore Chinn, who frequents SF State’s Fine Arts exhibits and graduated from the school herself, noted the small number of artists on display this time around.

“Compared to some of their previous shows that I’ve seen, especially if they have quite a few artists – this [exhibit] is almost minimalist in terms of its look and feel. But on the other hand, it creates a strong image when you first walk in the door.” 

A gallery attendee comments to their friend while gesturing towards Yaron Michael Hakim’s self-portrait “Self-Portrait as a Guacamaya Yellow-Sided Conure”. (Eian Gil / Golden Gate Xpress) (Eian Gil)

The premise of “Have You Seen Me?” is based on the concept of the “self.” Works featured encourage attendees to look inwards and subject themselves to a flipping of the script. Traditionally, artwork is meant to be studied and observed in a sort of one-sided relationship; in this exhibit, attendees will find their gaze being returned, with every work shown featuring some emphasis on eye contact and the vulnerability that comes along with it. 

The exhibit’s catalog expands on this notion while at the same time summarizing the exhibit’s purpose, stating: “What would have been a missed encounter is prevented as the artist’s eye, literally featured in all the works, functions to disarm our gaze and invites us to see eye to eye.”

Other artists in the exhibit include Erica Deeman and Marcel Pardo Ariza. Both artists explore the concept of self through wildly different mediums – Deeman utilizes 3D molds and clay to deliver an incredibly detailed and almost somber series of self-portraits, while Ariza comments heavily on acceptance within the transgender community through their life-sized portrait photographs.

The intensity of Deeman’s work is emphasized by the black wall the series is displayed on, in direct contrast with the rest of the gallery’s more colorful presentations. Likewise, Ariza’s photographs make use of the space they were allotted, powerfully watching over viewers who are brave enough to stand in the artwork’s shadow.

According to Bliss, the curation of the exhibit started with excitement over Hakim’s paintings. From there, the concept of the gaze was explored, and more and more artists whose work complemented this concept were added to the docket.

“It was amazing to be introduced to this new artist [Hakim], somebody we didn’t know, work we really responded to… and so Kevin and I were just like, ‘What is it that’s intriguing to us?’ And for us, it was that gaze back. And so then…it was just really fast, it was this kind of popcorn thing and all of sudden we had four artists and we said, ‘y’know, this is enough’.”

Located in Fine Arts Gallery Room 238, “Have You Seen Me?” is open to visitors Tuesday through Friday, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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About the Contributors
Photo of Eian Gil
Eian Gil, Xpress Magazine Editor-in-Chief
Eian Gil (he/him) is a journalism & political science student at SF State, currently serving as Xpress magazine’s editor-in-chief. Originally from Modesto, he bounces back and forth between Los Angeles & San Francisco (although he prefers the latter). When he’s not writing, most of his free time is devoted to taking care of his plants and animals.

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