Facing Ourselves: Photographer Patricia Houghton Clarke Inaugurates a Public Art Program with Fine Art Portraits Focusing on Migration and Integration

  • CARPENTERIA, California
  • /
  • October 07, 2019

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From "Facing Ourselves," a project of Patricia Houghton Calrke
courtesy the artist

International Photographer Inaugurates Public Art Project in Carpinteria, California, with Facing Ourselves: Carpinteria

It all started nearly ten years ago with an Artist in Residency grant which provided award-winning photographer Patricia Houghton Clarke the opportunity to live in a small southern Italian village and document the residents who understand what it means to “carry a suitcase.” The result of her exploration to find the commonalities of human nature and personal dignity is an immersing exhibition. Titled Facing Ourselves: Carpinteria Clarke’s poster-sized color portraits will burst on the scene October 18 through November 4 at Southern California's Lynda Fairly Carpinteria Arts Center. This show will also debut Carpinteria’s Public Art program to coincide with the exhibition (also known as Resolution 5923 Public Art).

Within her latest series of work – Facing Ourselves – the California-based photographer confronts the challenges, misunderstandings, and stigma that accompanies migrants and refugees. In response to changing social, political, economic, and environmental climates, the world is on the move in numbers rarely seen before. And it is how we address this crisis that will define us as nations, communities, and individuals. 

The genesis of Facing Ourselves was forged on the frontlines of the recent wave of Northern African, Western Asian, and Middle Eastern refugees that crashed upon the shores of Western Europe. While other documentarians focused on the dramatic and politically charged journeys, Clarke quietly turned her camera upon the refugees themselves as they assimilated into new communities and cultures. 

By photographing the newcomers and the communities that welcomed them, she has crafted a series of images extraordinary in its empathetic persuasiveness. The residents and recent arrivals she documented span the globe – from Africa to Asia, Europe, Middle East, and the Americas, but behind this diverse array of faces within this body of work what we ultimately see are people - people just like us.


When asked about memorable facets of the Facing Ourselves project, Clarke replied with a smile. “One of the most satisfying aspects of the project to date has been the “ripple effect” in Carpinteria, whereby community members have sponsored fundraising workshops and are creating adjunct events synchronizing with the theme of the exhibition.”  From poetry workshops and readings, to story-cloth workshops, to community conversations and gatherings for local students to meet and discuss what it means to accept and honor differences, creating conscious community.  All of this came about very naturally as she was preparing space for the exhibition.  Plus the enthusiastic response from the City Council for Clarke’s work sets a nice precedent for future art installations to happen with other artists.


Late in 2018, Facing Ourselves premiered in the small southern Italian town, Martignano where it all began. For more than 100 years, the people of Martignano migrated to Southern France for agricultural work, since their home had no resources for employment.  Being migrants themselves the villagers’ acceptance of “other” comes from a place deep within themselves, their families, and their own migratory history, saying “...we know what it’s like to carry a suitcase...” 

This exhibition won the international Julia Margaret Cameron Honorable Mention Award for Human Rights based on the portraits from Italy and London. Several of the photographs were exhibited in the 5th Biennale in Barcelona, Spain this past Spring. To date, Clarke has been invited by communities in Denmark, Mexico and Germany to continue the project which has achieved international and national coverage.  She hopes to create the next series in a tiny rural community in Kansas in 2020.

In addition to the Gallery exhibition inside the Lynda Fairly Carpinteria Arts Center, the Public Art photography installations will be seen 24/7 for the run at The Art Center; at the Seal Fountain on Linden Avenue near 8th St; and at the town’s main intersection of Linden and Carpinteria Avenues. Portraits will be in large format using vinyl banners.  All photographs and banners will be for sale and proceeds benefit The Facing Ourselves Project and the Lynda Fairly Carpinteria Arts Center.

Facing Ourselves: Carpinteria exhibition/installation runs October 18 through November 4.  Opening Reception will be held on Friday, October 18 from 7 – 9 pm and the public exhibition opens Saturday afternoon October 19 from 2 – 5 pm with an Artist Talk at the Lynda Fairly Carpinteria Arts Center, 865 Linden Ave., Carpinteria, CA 93013.  Exhibition is free. Donations are always welcomed.  The Arts Center is open Thursday-Monday from 11-5.  Call (805) 684-7789 or log onto https://www.carpinteriaartscenter.org

Supporting organizations for Facing Ourselves: Carpinteria include: Patricia Clarke Studio; Lynda Fairly Carpinteria Arts Center; Santa Barbara Foundation; Bower Foundation; Carp Growers; Indivisible Carpinteria; McCune Foundation; Natalie Orfalea Foundation; Santa Barbara Public Library; Alcazar Theater; McFadden & McFadden P.R.; City of Martignano; Parco Palmieri and Philos Multiculturale (Italy); Waging Peace UK (England); Abolish Blandness Gallery (Kansas); along with many more local individuals, businesses and organizations.

Facing Ourselves: Carpinteria is not only a photographic exhibition, but also an on-going collection of community projects in the beautiful seaside community of Carpinteria, California. Community members, inspired by the message of Facing Ourselves have this year created numerous classes and workshops with the same theme of community to support the project: Yoga Classes (Carpinteria Women's Club); Feldenkreis Classes (Deidre Sklar); Teen Mentorship Program (Rincon High + CAC); Grandparent Project (Rincon High + Gran Vida); Arpilleras/Story Cloth Workshops (Sharon Gonce, Artist); there will be an upcoming poetry workshop be offered during the exhibition by award-winning poet Glenna Luschei on October 27 and November 3, final reading Nov 3rd.  Numerous schools have contacted the artist to bring their students to the exhibition to share in the theme of creating compassionate community.  

If you’re interested in covering the Facing Ourselves Project, please contact the artist directly at (805) 452-7739

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