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Private Portraits, Public Conversations

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"I personally feel that conflict is a part of education. People seem to always want things to run smoothly in academia and I don't actually think that's the point. I think the point is to have healthy engagement in debate and healthy conflict."

Charles Nearburg '72, Thayer '74


"There will always be wolves among us. And I've got nothing against wolves. I think they're beautiful animals, but mix them with sheep and you've got issues."

Evelynn Ellis, director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action


"So many people have helped me-whether it was monetary or just listening when I needed someone to talk to-I feel it's an obligation to just pay it forward and do the same for others"

Ronald Chavarria '11


"I went on this trip to China, with all the student body presidents of the Ivy League, and I was the only female ... [it] was eye opening ... seeing that inequalities still exist here in many different ways ... "

Molly Bode '09, Student Assembly president


"While I was in Nicaragua a light bulb went off. There we were, just college students, and we were able to build a health clinic. I said Whoa! If we could do this here, what's to stop us from doing a similar thing in Kenya?"

Milton Ochieng' '04



"... the College was ... learning how to celebrate its historic commitment to Native Americans while not holding on to that misguided idea that the College was actually honoring its tradition by having as a mascot Indian people."

N. Bruce Duthu '80, professor of Native American studies 
(All portraits by Félix de la Concha, oil on linen. Collection of the artist.) 


While Félix de la Concha painted a portrait of Ronald Chavarria '11 last fall, artist and subject shared a conversation. Chavarria, of Miami, Fla., spoke about personal experiences such as his parents' immigration to the United States from Nicaragua, his family's economic hardships, and running away from home at age 14.

The completed portrait—part of the new exhibition "Félix de la Concha: Private Portraits/Public Conversations"—is comprised of the painting, as well as audio and video of the interview that took place during the two-hour sitting.

Fifty-one members of the Dartmouth and surrounding communities gave interviews and had their portraits painted for the project. (The quotes next to portraits above are excerpted from the sitters' interviews.) Commissioned by the Hood Museum of Art, the multimedia exhibition is on view at the Hood and in Baker Library through Sept. 27, 2009.

The exhibition incorporates all components of the multifaceted portraits-including fast-forward video that shows a painting's creation in minutes.

Brian Kennedy, director of the Hood, says, "The three-fold aspect of this project is what is utterly innovative about it. We're taking a conventional, traditional method of making portraits-oil on canvas-and then applying it to a very contemporary form of record."

De la Concha notes that he intentionally painted within the two-hour time constraint "to feel this presence as a unique moment."

The exhibition is part of the Dartmouth Centers Forum's 2008-10 series "Conflict and Reconciliation." The centers forum is a collaboration of 10 of the College's interdisciplinary, extracurricular, and arts centers.

In keeping with the centers forum theme, de la Concha interviewed subjects about conflict and reconciliation in their own lives. Topics included terminal illness, social integration, poverty, being newly rich, the death of a child, domestic abuse, and addiction.

Chavarria says he found the process therapeutic. "I went into the project nervous about sharing such personal experiences, but it really turned into a time of reflection for me," he says. "I'm hoping someone who comes from a similar background might see my portrait and know they're not alone."

Charles Nearburg '72, Thayer '74, of Dallas, Texas, discussed "my experience with conflict at Dartmouth over the 40 years I've been involved here, as well as more personal issues that accompanied my son Rett's 11-year battle with Ewing's sarcoma. Félix asked straightforward questions with insight and sensitivity."

Kennedy says, "I think the intention of the project, which has been realized, was to make the theme of conflict and reconciliation real by highlighting the experience of conflict for people in our community."

The project is supported by gifts from Constance and Walter Burke '44 and Yoko Otani Homma and Shunichi Homma '77, M.D.


Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 7/24/18