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Artist Vicki Walsh explores the human face in full detail

OCEANSIDE — Artist Vicki Walsh’s attention to detail and focus on the human head comes together in her five-foot hyper-realistic portraits now on display in “Touching the Surface: Vicki Walsh” at the Oceanside Museum of Art.
The collection of seven large-scale portraits of spiritual teachers includes two self-portraits.
“I like an interesting face, one with character,” Walsh said. “I paint every little defect. To me these faces are beautiful.”
Overlaid on the portraits are Islamic geometric patterns. Walsh said the geometry of the patterns reflects the geometry that is the basis of all life. The perfect symmetry of the patterns is also a contrast to the imperfections that are present in the human face.
A soft color pallet and smooth finished surfaces add friendliness to her images. By painting hundreds of transparent layers of oil glaze Walsh achieves subtle tonalities of color with no visible brush strokes.
Walsh is an academically trained painter and illustrator who worked 15 years as a forensic medical illustrator.
“I’m not turned off by physical details some might see as ugly,” Walsh said. “It’s just my personality. I’ve seen some pretty horrendous things.”
Walsh said that when she worked as a forensic illustrator she often needed to “clean up” her illustrations that were presented in court.
In contrast her works on exhibit allowed her to express herself and show every detail in her paintings.
“I don’t think I’m aging people,” Walsh said. “I don’t think I’m making them ugly. A real face, a person had imperfections. It’s all there. I’ve made it five-foot tall.”
Due to the hyper-realistic nature of her work Walsh said she sometimes has difficulty finding models and will often paint herself.
“I do have spots, wrinkles,” Walsh said. “I’m not perfect and that’s not a problem.”
Walsh has received a variety of responses to her works. Some viewers are interested in her painting techniques and others question why she includes “unflattering” details in her portraits.
Walsh has been painting since 2006. Her works have been on exhibit at numerous museums in California and are part of the public collections at the Triton Museum of Art in San Diego.
“Touching the Surface: Vicki Walsh” will be on display at the Oceanside Museum of Art through Oct. 23. The museum is located at 704 Pier View Way.