Culture » Visual Arts

Lindsay Hand paints life into forgotten faces

The Cut


  • Griffin Swartzell

When I visit her downtown studio, Lindsay Hand is painting a portrait from a blurred photo in a century-old album. The subject of her painting is a young woman with a palpable energy and an almost frightful presence. Though the album doesn't include her name, Hand has dubbed her Queen Madge, taken from another photo that appears to show the woman dressed as a fortune teller.

"I've always been drawn to old photographs," she says. "I'm really drawn to anything old, really."

It's not the only photo she's working from — or even the only photo album. As I visit, she has three sitting on her desk, with yet more photos copied or mounted on paper and pinned to her walls.

  • Griffin Swartzell

One album depicts the lives of a family from Cañon City, through the 1940s and '50s. Another documents the youth and coming of age of a young woman of unknown origin. The latter album has no names; the former, only the headstone of a family member who died in the Korean War. With nobody to claim them, these photo albums hit the open market. Hand plans to grow each photo album into its own body of work, examining the lives and lost memories therein.

"For whatever reason, these have no connection to a living person," she notes. "The idea that there's a family that didn't want these or passed away ... what is our history? How do we keep going on? It's not even a 'You are not forgotten' thing. It's more widespread than that..."

Her subjects are sometimes more momentous than unloved photo albums. For the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, she produced a series of 11 paintings that were displayed at the Pioneers Museum. The city of Trinidad purchased the paintings, which will be featured at the opening of a new mining museum, set to open in Trinidad this summer.

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