Self Portraits from JoAnne & Ken

by Ken Otterbourg

These two self-portraits hung in my office upstairs, and I often spent a fair amount of my day staring at them when I should have been working. JoAnne did her print in 1978. She would have been 21 or 22. My painting was done in 1986, when I was 24. By then, we were both living in Winston-Salem, perhaps a mile or so apart, strangers in our own worlds and own relationships, unaware of each other and our shared future.

We are just kids in these portraits. All that road ahead of us, the heartache and joy of life, of our lives, is out there somewhere. Breathing. Hoping Waiting. It’s beyond the frames. But when I look at these two pieces, it’s also apparent that even then, we were already who we were and would be. JoAnne, looking out at the world, behind some savagely cool sunglasses, her big, beautiful hands ready to get to work. Me, uncomfortable, head down, trying to avoid eye contact.

It would be 2006 — 20 years after I painted my self-portrait — before JoAnne and I would meet. We used to joke that we must have crossed paths at the old West End Video, but we have no proof. And in some ways, it doesn’t matter that it took so long for us to find each other. What matters is that we did.

An exhibition of their JoAnne and Ken’s work will run from May 18th through June 28th in the Davis Gallery. The opening night for the exhibition will include an auction of JoAnne’s art collection. The sale of the artwork will benefit both Piedmont Craftsmen & Sawtooth School for Visual Art.

Learn more about this event. Reservations are required by May 13th. Tickets are $50 per person. Purchase your ticket online OR call Piedmont Craftsmen at (336) 725-1516.