A sister competition to the third installment of the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in 2013, the Teen Portrait Competition is currently accepting entries. The deadline has been extended until April 29, 2012. Grand Prize winners will be honored at the National Portrait Gallery in 2013; competition details can be found at www.npgteenportrait.org.
Recently, we talked with one of the teen coordinators of this new completion, Sarah Schnorrenberg.
Q: What is your role in facilitating this competition?
SS: I am on the marketing team. The ten of us were split into teams: management, marketing, and design. As a group, we planned the entire competition. Rebecca Kasemeyer [NPG’s director of education] expected the competition to consist of photographs, but aside from that we had full rein in creating it, especially as this is the first one for teens.
Along with the other members of the marketing team, I've been trying to help get the word out about the competition. As is true for all of the teens working on the competition, this was a new experience. I've never done any marketing before, and I came out able to say that I've written a press release.
Q: How have you liked the response so far?
SS: Our most recent stat is 109 entries [as of publication there are more than 200 entries], which is about half of our target, but still a very respectable number. I'm hoping that in consecutive years, after news spreads, the response will be much larger.
Unfortunately, I won't be on the teen design team by then, but I'm sure that in years to come the competition will be just as acclaimed as the Outwin Boochever competition. However, I am not trying to diminish this accomplishment; 109 is a great number to achieve and we are all very excited. In this last month of the competition, we might reach our target.
Q: The website notes, “The work entered should be understood as a portrait in the broadest sense.” What sort of stylistic representation is acceptable as an entry? Is this a wide-open entry field?
SS: The first day we came in to work on the competition, we spent the morning wandering around the National Portrait Gallery, looking at examples of portraits and discussing exactly what our definition of a portrait was.
The one example that we threw around during meetings of a more abstract portrait is the brick. Some artist [Robert Arneson] took a brick and called it a self-portrait for some esoteric reason. We tackled the question of whether or not we would accept this.
While I was inclined to accept bricks myself, we came to decide that the portrait must at least include part of a human body. Therefore, if one decides that a foot captures the essence of their subject, we will accept the picture of the foot. I would like to think that this is wide open. We are trying to get teens interested in portraiture, and it seems counterintuitive to me to reject one's form of expression when we are trying so hard to get them to express something in the first place.
Q: Can you tell us anything about the works you have seen so far, or is that an unfair question?
SS: The two I've seen were wonderful and complete opposites. When we opened the first entry, we were all taken aback. (Or at least I was.) A large, high-definition picture popped up on the computer screen, and it was great quality. It was a picture of a boy with water pouring over his hair and eyes popping against the blue water droplets. It was very striking, to say the least. I forget what the title was, but the artist wrote something about the portrait representing his brother's loss of innocence. It was all very Catcher in the Rye-esque.
The other portrait was much more subtle—black and white, with a girl against ivy and the lighting striking her just right. Both pictures give me great hope about the turnout we will have by April 29, and I'm eager to see all the entries in May. Clearly, teens still hold some esteem for portraiture as a form of art, because they do it so well.