The only time I’ve ever seen my boyfriend without a beard was on Halloween a few years ago.
He’d been super-secretive about his costume, and it wasn’t until he showed up at the party as Edgar Allan Poe with a clean-shaven face, a fake mustache and a “nevermore”-croaking raven perched on his shoulder that I got to see what he looked like without a face full of fur. He was still darn cute, but I almost didn’t recognize him.
In other words, I’d grown so used to seeing a beard on his mug that when it wasn’t there, I kind of missed it.
I shouldn’t have worried. As he’s a prodigiously hairy male specimen, it wasn’t long before the fancy follicles were back in action. And there they have stayed.
Because of his longstanding authority concerning facial hair, my guy was more than happy to escort me to a recent opening reception for “Beardingham,” an exhibit by Vessel Screen Printing Studio’s John Overly at Make.Shift Art Space.
What we saw on the walls made it more than clear that our town is thick with hirsute men who aren’t afraid to let their hair(s) down.
At first glance, the images appear to be simple portrait photographs surrounded by elaborate and unique frames. Closer looks, however, made it clear there was more to the beards than met the eye.
“All the portraits are plastisol ink hand-screen printed on black velvet by me at Vessel Screen Printing Studio,” Overly told me when I contacted him after the show. He says the idea for the exhibit came about after he was asked to do a couple pieces for an all-screen-printing group show at Make.Shift a few months ago.
“I knew I wanted full color and something on black velvet,” he noted. “I just decided last-minute to do the images of Noah [Burns] and Dan [Ryan]. Those two portraits sparked some interest at Make.Shift and essentially became the catalyst for the ‘Beardingham’ show.” (For the record, Overly shaved his own beard off two hours before the opening reception.)
It turns out beards and black velvet are a classic combination, and as we moved through the gallery, I asked my guy to chime in as he deemed necessary.
“That’s the most man of all,” he observed when we came to the portrait of Jared Michael Stoker, a hirsute guy who was wearing a jean jacket vest, underwear, a gun and, of course, a beard.
“That’s a lot of hair jumpin’ around,” he noted as we passed Zach Zinn’s visage.
Dan Ryan’s masterful muttonchops garnered no discussion, nor did Noah Burns’ semi-surprised-looking image.
It wasn’t until we came to Spencer Willhoft’s and Josh Holland’s likenesses that the discussion ramped up. You see, neither of them have beards—only mustaches.
Holland’s image, in particular, got my date riled up. It features a surreal and somewhat hallucinatory cascade of Holland’s face—we counted seven, but there may have been more layers we didn’t get around to.
“So many faces, so little hair,” my guy commented. Of the $400 opening bid, he theorized that was “like $70 a ‘stache.”
As we continued to make our way through the rich roster of facial hair, I asked him if he wished his bearded image had made the cut.
“No way,” he answered. “My beard’s already been around. My beard has tasted the winds of many continents, as well as various states of consciousness. It doesn’t need to be hanging on a wall.”
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