Guessing the Hidden Life as Triton Art Gallery Opens with The Fantasy Self



postcard_outlined_text_finalBy:  Rachel K. Hindery

Students and community members mingled with artist Jill LoBianco-Bartalis and some of the subjects of her latest exhibition, The Fantasy Self, at a reception in the Triton College Art Gallery the evening of September 15, 2016 between 6 and 8 p.m.  This reception was the first of the 2016-2017 season, and the culmination of months of research by LoBianco-Bartalis, who wrote her thesis on Jungian archetypes and how they relate to one’s fantasy self for a Masters of Fine Arts Degree at Governors State University.  The Fifth Avenue Journal spoke with five visitors at the reception, all of whom noticed similar themes in the photographs, despite having different experiences.

The Visitors…

Juan Silva, a Triton College student, was at his first artist reception.  He is taking a Renaissance to Modern Art class this semester, where he learned about the reception.

Israel Rodriguez, also a Triton College student, had attended a few artist receptions in the past.  He learned about this reception in his Art One class, which teaches basic drawing skills.

Liliana Riano is a community member attending her first artist reception.  A friend, who used to attend classes at Triton College, told her about the reception.

Leslie Roberson was also attending his first artist reception.  He told The Fifth Avenue Journal that he was there to support his friends.  He has known the artist, and many of the photography subjects, for years.

Bela Bartalis was one of the subjects photographed in The Fantasy Self.  He is the husband of the featured artist.

group-gallery_jillThe Reveal…

As visitors entered the art gallery, they were greeted by 16 headshots, one of each subject.  Each subject was dressed in white, against a white background, with each photograph lettered.  The fantasy self of each subject was hidden behind a red curtain, and visitors were asked to guess the fantasy persona only by looking at the eyes of each subject.

After each visitor had guessed, LoBianco-Bartalis opened the curtains, revealing the fantasy self of each.

Before and after The Reveal, visitors could speak with one another around small tables while enjoying some refreshments.

Conveying the Fantasy Self through the Eyes

LoBianco-Bartalis described her purposes for the all-white headshot in her thesis: “The subjects wear white for their headshot to maintain continuity and to keep distractions to a minimum.  The purpose of the headshot is to have the subject look deep into my camera lens and have them convey their fantasy self through their eyes (LoBianco-Bartalis, 4).”

Many of the visitors reflected on the white background while speaking to The Fifth Avenue Journal.

Juan noticed: “There is personality in all the photographs,” adding that the white background made it easier for him to focus.

Israel also commented on the white background.  “It brings people in.  It inspires people.”  Like Juan, Israel noticed the personality in each of the faces, saying: “It brought up sharpness, detail, and emotion.”

The Windows to the Soul?

Ms. LoBianco-Bartalis states in her thesis “My goal is to see if the eyes are the window to the soul.  Can our eyes convey our fantasy (LoBianco-Bartalis, 4)?”

The Fifth Avenue Journal spoke with visitors before and after the reveal, and everyone had something to say about trying to guess the correct fantasy self of each person.

Juan learned that he was most successful when he thought more carefully about each guess, instead of the fantasy self he thought of first: “I tried to think outside the box, and not just go with my first instinct.”

Liliana took the opposite approach, going with her first instinct, although she changed some of her answers later on.  Guessing was hard for her, and she says, “I discovered that all the expressions weren’t what I was first thinking.”  Liliana remembered one of the pictures that was the most difficult for her to guess.  “The way that they’re looking…Letter I, she could be a mermaid…”  However, “letter I” (Anca Moldovan) was actually the ballerina.

Leslie had the advantage of knowing some of the subjects, but he discovered that this did not make him immune to the difficulty of guessing each fantasy self correctly.  “I feel like I’m at about 80 percent,” Leslie said when asked how he felt he did.  However, once the reveal disclosed the true fantasy self of each subject, he had only guessed about 30 percent correctly.  Like Liliana, Leslie had difficulty guessing some of the subjects, saying, “I put the artist down as the bank robber!”

The Fifth Avenue Journal wondered if Leslie had an easier time guessing his friends than the subjects he didn’t know.  Not really.  While he correctly identified the fantasy self of his best friend, he missed some other friends.  Leslie was most surprised at missing the fantasy self of Madelyn Vogelsberg, because, “Maddie I’ve known practically forever.  I never would have pinned her as a mermaid.”

Israel had an easier time identifying Madelyn and some of the younger subjects, and he reported that he had an easier time guessing the fantasy self for kids.

Bela, being one of the subjects, offered a unique perspective.  For him, “the headshot was more surreal than the poker player [his fantasy self].”  He believes this is because he is his regular self more often than his fantasy self, musing “I’m the person I am in the headshot every day, but a poker player once in a while.”

Reflections on Art and Life

Thinking about the difficulty of guessing the fantasy selves led to some good discussion among the visitors whom The Fifth Avenue Journal spoke with.  Writes Ms. LoBianco-Bartalis, “The dialogue I am hoping to generate is why they made the choices they made about the fantasy selves in relation to the headshots (LoBianco-Bartalis, 4).”

Some visitors noticed a temptation to have preconceived notions about a fantasy self for each person.  In the words of Juan, “you’re so used to the norm.”

Israel noticed the idea of “norms” may develop later in life.  To him, kids might be more comfortable, while adults would be shyer.

Leslie found similarities between the art and his own experiences.  He shared that he works in a bar in Forest Park, and has been surprised by learning the interests of people he thought he knew well, especially if those interests didn’t fit his view of their personality.  For example, he described his boss as introverted, but learned that his boss also practices law, which Leslie originally viewed as field more suited for an extrovert.

While Israel admitted he would be shy if modeled for an exhibit such as The Fantasy Self, he encouraged other students and community members to study photography:  “I think people should take more photography.  It shows more detail, and more things they can accomplish in art.”

The Regenerated Self

Each subject was asked to choose three of following twelve archetypes that they believed they most related to: The Innocent, The Orphan, The Warrior, The Caregiver, The Seeker, The Destroyer, The Lover, The Creator, The Fool, The Sage, The Magician and The Ruler (LoBianco-Bartalis, 5-9).

Afterward, they took a quiz, testing which of the archetypes they are actually most related to, based on their personality and experiences.  Ms. LoBianco-Bartalis writes, “In my analysis, I have discovered that our fantasies are rooted in our personal psychology and mirror in many cases the fundamental archetypes that are currently dominant in our lives.  In addition to making the connections between the fantasies and the archetypes, the relationships the subjects have to the archetypes they think they are, are often at odds with the archetypes they actually are… (LoBianco-Bartalis, 13).”

Bela told The Fifth Avenue Journal that he was mostly honest with himself, but that the quiz is from the person’s perspective, and “you see yourself differently than other people see you.”  Two of the three archetypes he most related to were in his top three according to the quiz results.

Bela had the self-identified advantage of being able to live as his fantasy self, although the busyness of life and everyday time conflicts make it impossible for him to be a full time poker player.  In contrast, some fantasy selves are either impossible to live out (for example, a cloud), or undesirable in mainstream society (for example, a bank robber).

When asked how he feels when he is most connected to his fantasy self, Bela had a profound reflection that “It’s like a vacation for me, like I’ve regenerated myself.  I open a door, and there’s no one else there but me.”

Lobianco-Bartalis’ makes expert use of lighting and color in The Fantasy Self.  Some photographs, especially those whose fantasy self related to a historical period or character (e.g. an equestrienne, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn), were shot in black and white.  In others, she used colored lighting set a specific angle to highlight the mood (as in her photograph of the bank robber fantasy self, which utilized red lighting).  The color of the costuming also melded well with the chosen background colors.

These artistic and stylistic technique help draw the viewer into each piece, imagining the fantasy self.  To Bela, living fantasy, if only briefly, gives energy to real life.  Perhaps viewing it, as in The Fantasy Self, does the same.

Do You Want to see The Fantasy Self?

The Fantasy Self will be on display in the Triton College Art Gallery (J-Building) until Friday, September 23, 2016.  Each photograph is also included in Ms. LoBianco-Bartalis’ thesis, above.  If you’re interested in seeing the next art show at Triton College, the Berwyn Art League will host an exhibit between September 26, 2016 and October 21, 2016 with a reception held on the last day of the show between 7 and 9 p.m.

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