The series of drawings that make up Advice Portraits by San Francisco artist Maria Forde makes you lean in a little closer.
For her exhibit, Forde turned to her friends as subjects and sources of wisdom. Surrounding each portrait is a piece of advice. One person encourages recycling, another suggests rooting for the underdog, and another passes along car advice from his mother. Each is drawn with a lightness and care that feels intimate.
Every subject exudes a quiet satisfaction, as if they have the answers Forde is looking for. The subjects are mostly young, and look like people you might pass on the street, stand next to on the bus or encounter in line at the taqueria.
That demographic contrasts the one depicted in Forde's new zine, Longview which was released in conjunction with the show. Longview is a sweet ode to people who live in the same retirement home as Forde's grandmother. Forde describes her inspiration to visit the retirement home in her own handwriting on the back cover: "Life is confusing and complicated and I feel sometimes like I'm lost. Like I wish someone could point out the way for me. You know, explain how it all works. Because who wants to feel like they are bumbling along making mistakes and not learning from them? Just walking in a circle and not getting anywhere. So, I thought I'd go ask some people who made it a long way in life."
Their advice is simple, but feels elevated by the care Forde takes with her subjects. She draws every portrait in her carefully detailed style, and includes short but revealing snippets about their long life, and small details -- like one woman's red suit, another man's vertical blinds, and another's invitation to Forde to come back and visit.
There is a tenderness to Forde's work that makes me thankful she chose to lavish so much care on her subjects. Their plainspoken advice makes me feel like everything is going to be okay.
Advice Portraits by Maria Forde is at Needles and Pens 3253 16th Street in San Francisco through April 26, 2009. For more information visit needles-pens.com.