Tom Jones, Elizah Leonard from the series Strong Unrelenting Spirits, 2019. Inkjet print with beads, rhinestones, and shells. IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM, museum purchase, 2020. © Tom Jones

For Immediate Release

Grand Rapids Art Museum Presents National Portrait Gallery Exhibition The Outwin: American Portraiture Today”

The Outwin: American Portraiture Today on view June 1 — September 8, 2024.

Grand Rapids, MI, May 28, 2024 — The National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition will be on view at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) in The Outwin: American Portraiture Today. On view from June 1 through September 8, 2024, this touring exhibition celebrates excellence in the art of portraiture and illuminates the genre’s power to communicate a multitude of life experiences. 

Every three years, artists living and working in the United States are invited to submit one of their recent portraits to a panel of experts chosen by the Portrait Gallery. Forty-two finalists were selected from over 2,700 entries in a wide range of media, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, textiles, video, and performance. The resulting presentation reflects the compelling and diverse approaches that today’s artists are using to tell the American story through portraiture. Finalists have come from 14 states, including Michigan, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. 

The Grand Rapids Art Museum is thrilled to partner with the National Portrait Gallery to present The Outwin: American Portraiture Today,” commented GRAM Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Jennifer Wcisel. Portraiture both reflects and shapes our self of self and those in our community. It is a genre that responds to the urgent challenges we face today and allow us to see ourselves, our histories, and our futures in a new light. This exhibition demonstrates how artists working today have taken up that important call to action.” 

The artists responded to the competition with works that engage and reflect contemporary society, many providing new insights into the unprecedented reality we have experienced in the time surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Artist and first prize winner Alison Elizabeth Taylor’s painting Anthony Cuts under the Williamsburg Bridge, Morning, depicts Brooklyn hair groomer Anthony Payne, who, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, took his scissors and barber chair to the streets. In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, Payne sought to financially support the Black Lives Matter movement, and raised proceeds from his donation-based haircuts for organizations advocating for social justice. 

Two Michigan-based artists have work featured in the exhibition. West Bloomfield-based artist Robert Schefman’s painting In Love with My Best Friend (2019) from The Secrets Project series was born from the artist asking people to disclose one personal secret,” garnering hundreds of cathartic responses surrounding love and loss. Jarod Lew, hailing from Ferndale, has an inkjet print from his Please Take Off Your Shoes series entitled Gracie. Lew began exploring what he calls the contradictions inherent to constructions of Asian American identity,” navigating the cultural complexities that arise with topics like transnational adoption. 

Artist Jess T. Dugan, whose work Look at me like you love me will be exhibited in GRAM’s windows this June, is also included in The Outwin. This work comes from their ongoing photographic series Every Breath We Drew, in which subjects embrace and intertwine their bodies in a larger, poetic metaphor for love, connection, and desire within the queer experience. 

This exhibition has been organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. The jury who selected these works included Kathleen Ash-Milby, Catherine Opie, Ebony G. Patterson, and John Yau. They were joined by the Portrait Gallery’s curators Taína Caragol, Dorothy Moss, and Leslie Ureña. The competition and exhibition are made possible by the Virginia Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Endowment, established by Virginia Outwin Boochever and continued by her family. 

Support for GRAM’s presentation is generously provided by Wege Foundation, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Lead Exhibition Society Support is provided by the Daniel & Pamella DeVos Foundation with additional funding provided by GRAM Exhibition Society.

Related Events:

Member Exhibition Opening | The Outwin: American Portraiture Today
Friday, May 31, 7 – 9 pm,
Free, GRAM Member event
GRAM Members and their guests are invited to celebrate the opening of The Outwin: American Portraiture Today. Join us for an advance look at the exhibition, accompanied by hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Explore the exhibition and learn more about the artwork on view from GRAM’s knowledgeable docents who will be available throughout the galleries. 

Visionnaire Series: Identity and Self Expression Poetry Night
Thursday, June 27, 5:30 – 7 pm
5:30 — 6 pm Coffee and poetry sign up
6 — 7 pm Poetry reading
Join GRAM’s Visionnaires for a self-identity themed poetry night at the Museum inspired by The Outwin: American Portraiture Today. Enjoy a free cup of coffee or purchase a themed beverage from Morning Ritual, connect with the Grand Rapids Pride Center, and snap along as fellow poets explore self-identity through spoken word. Registration is required. 

About the Grand Rapids Art Museum
Connecting people through art, creativity, and design. Established in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the art museum is internationally known for its distinguished design and LEED® Gold certified status. Founded in 1910 as the Grand Rapids Art Association, GRAM has grown to include more than 6,500 works of art, including American and European 19th and 20th-century painting and sculpture and more than 3,000 works on paper. Embracing the city’s legacy as a leading center of design and manufacturing, GRAM has a growing collection in the area of design and modern craft. 

For museum hours and admission fees, call 616.831.1000 or visit