This is a guest post by John Gosling, whose exhibit “Printed Art: The Potomac” is open through Monday, June 1.
The “Faces of Alexandria” collection is a series of nine portraits representing the history of Alexandria from its colonial beginnings up to the present day. I started the series in 2009 and it is based on the portraits of local people, models, self-portraits, and family members wearing period costumes.
The inspiration for the series comes from my fascination with Old Town Alexandria and derives from my recognition, as an architect/urban planner, that Old Town is one of the premier examples of a sustainable, mixed-use community in America. For me it is a very special place that demonstrates the results of a pioneering community’s endeavor from the formative period in our nations’ history (building a community from scratch), that has functioned for over 250 years.
I deliberately selected the characters to illustrate a range of ordinary citizens rather than the historic players like George Washington or Robert E. Lee that are typically associated with Alexandria. My original idea was to do twelve faces and assemble a calendar from them. I have sketched out the remaining three and hope to complete the series by the end of this year.
The faces represent aspects of Alexandria’s amazingly diverse history: a colonial era entry point for trade established at the head of navigation on the Potomac River, a slave trading center, the largest logistical centers of the Union Army during the Civil War, large scale manufacturing during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and shipbuilding and torpedo manufacturing during wartime. At one time it had the largest railroad yard in the south at Potomac Yard.
I have tried to tell this rich history through my “Faces of Alexandria” series, for example:
All of this history has produced Alexandria as it appears today. Alexandrians have faced all of these challenges – occupying armies, commercial failures, and social upheaval – and overcome them. It now is a flourishing city that values its historic waterfront, its old and historic buildings, stories of its eventful past, and its social, artistic, and economic vitality.
— John Gosling