Dale Stephanos is an illusionist who performs at least two magic tricks, both of which are transformative. The first trick is an act of creative ensoulment: the process by which Dale imbues his portraits not only with the illusion of life, but with sentience. “My obsession is really the face, the gaze,” he says. “I’m very concerned that the work feels as though it’s looking back at me with life behind the eyes.”
This impression—of a face “looking back” at the viewer—is partly achieved through blinkered framing, amorphous backgrounds, and a shallow depth of field. A charcoal drawing of Samuel Beckett typifies Dale’s approach: cropped tightly to the head, stripped of context, with ancillary details eliminated. In other portraits, soft-focus backgrounds recede and serve to thrust the foreground—always the face—toward the viewer. “Sergio Leone’s movies had a big impact on me. The way he’d linger on close-ups, building the tension, was amazing and frightening.” Generally fully frontal and with an implacable gaze, Dale’s portraits invariably draw the viewer’s attention to a set of luminous eyes.
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