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Joni Brenner is not a conventional portraitist; her work subverts the notion of “likeness” in the representation of a given subject. For almost three decades, she has been producing images of heads, faces and sometimes skulls that resist the process of making-similar (with its implied promise of ready recognition, whether the style employed is photorealistic or impressionistic).

Yet it is also true that Brenner’s method as painter and sculptor is closer to traditional portraiture than that of most of her contemporaries: instead of working from photographs, she sits in the studio with her subjects for the long, long hours of composition. This requires, of course, great commitment from her subjects — and it creates a sense of reciprocity, of mutual obligation, that has become a foundational principle of the artist’s practice. ..

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