Anonymous Identities is an investigation into the ritual of concealing one’s identity. Inspired by documented photographs of terrorists, protesters, and activists from all over the world, Rieger examines the behavioral similarities between cultures. Some figures conceal their faces with items that were available to them: scarves, head wraps, bags etc. Others take the time to handcraft headdresses and create seemingly iconic faces of fear, struggle, and intimidation. At first glance these portraits can evoke fear in the viewer, but within this body of work Rieger poses many questions. What is it that we fear? Is it the unknown? Is it the threat of violence? Or is it the fear that the people underneath these masks could be our friends, our family, or our children?
By painting these portraits, Rieger highlights the process and ritual of creating identity through anonymity. Not meant to glamorize or glorify, but rather by isolating these “faces of terror” throughout the world, Rieger hopes to illustrate that ideas of terrorism or extremism cannot be isolated to just one group of people or one specific culture.
Anonymous Identities is a series of portraits Vanessa Rieger painted from 2009 – 2011. While attending OCAD for drawing and painting, Rieger was instructed by various painting professors not to use black paint. Many consider manufactured black paints to be “untrue” and used as a crutch by “painters who cannot mix paint.” Discovering that every manufactured black has a different hue and different light quality, Rieger experimented with the medium to create form and value while using only 5 different types of black. The use of only black paints reveals depth and value in what some may consider a black and white issue.