Zoe Bray

The Ethnographic Process of Portrait-Painting [UK/BASQUE COUNTRY]
Zoe Bray (artist & anthropologist)


Image Credit: Zoe Bray painting Jose Antonio Sistiaga at his home, Basque Country. July 2011. Photo by Juan Pablo Zabala.

During the Residency, Zoe Bray will be live-painting in the gallery space to explore further her methodological connections between naturalist (also know as realist) painting and ethnography. By demonstrating ethnographic research methods such as cultural immersion, participant-observation, open-ended interviews, and reflective selection, Bray draws parallels to techniques employed in naturalist painting such as the use of the mirror, squinting, distance, and choice of focus. This project explores at an epistemological level how painting and ethnography share a common concern with apprehension of the objective world by means long-term observation and contextual interaction. Zoe will be painting anthropologist Thomas D. Blakely.

About the Model

Tom BlakeleyThomas D. Blakely was first inspired to explore potential uses of film and photography in anthropology as an undergraduate at Harvard University in the 1960s, where he studied with pioneers Karl Heider and Robert Gardner. He earned his PhD in anthropology and African Studies at Northwestern University, mentored by Africanist ethnographer Paul Bohannan, photographer/linguist Oswald Werner, and Edward T. Hall. In 1972, he was one of twenty young scholars funded by the National Science Foundation and the American Anthropological Association to participate in the landmark Summer Institute in Visual Anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His six years of field research in central Africa and subsequent publications focus on topics related to visual anthropology including semiotics, proxemics, African arts and performance, and visual description, analysis, and interpretation

Dr. Blakely has actively contributed to the field of visual anthropology for over forty years. He helped found the Society for Visual Anthropology, and has served as SVA President. For twenty-nine years he has organized and co-chaired the Visual Research Conference which is the first event of each AAA Annual Meeting, and has fostered robust discussion on a wide range of visual anthropological topics. He has directed and produced PBS television shows, and edited the Directory of Visual Anthropology (with Pamela A. R. Blakely, 1989) and Anthropological Excellence in Film: Ten Years of Award Winners in the SVA/AAA Film and Video Festival (with Joan Swayze Williams, 1995). Dr. Blakely’s publications include the film African Carving: A Dogon Kanaga Mask (with Eliot Elisofon, 1974), “So’o Masks in Hemba Funerary Festival” in African Arts (with Pamela A. R. Blakely, 1987), Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression (with Walter van Beek and Dennis L Thomson, 1994), and Seeing Anthropology: Cultural Anthropology Through Film, 4th edition (with Karl G. Heider and Pamela A. R. Blakely, 2007).

Dr. Blakely has been a university professor for more than three decades, during which he has actively interwoven filmic, photographic, and written ethnographic case material into his teaching. He has spent the last sixteen years teaching at Penn State University, where he won the 2006 Outstanding Teacher Award.

Zoe Bray (UK/Basque Country) is a realist painter and social anthropologist. Since 2011, she has been an Assistant Professor in the Center for Basque Studies in Anthropology and Art at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her current research on ‘The Artist as Hero: Art and Politics in the Basque Country Today’ uses portrait painting as an additional ethnographic method in her fieldwork.


The Ethnographic Process of Portrait-Painting with Zoe Bray
Date: Monday 18th, Wednesday 19th, Thursday 20th, and Friday 21st November 2013
Time: 12-3pm
Short Description: Every 20mins, the artist will break from painting a model to talk with visitors about her unique ethnographic process.

This project is funded in part by the University of Nevada, Reno and the Center for Basque Studies