“Muzzlers” (The Accused) Mug shots from 1919-1938

Now available from the artist.

“Muzzlers” is a series of oil portraits Houston undertook over the last year, based on original black and white photographs from police records archived at the San Francisco Public Library, where the artist has long held a day job. She discovered the images in mug books titled “Prostitution” and “Muzzlers” – slang for sex crimes. Each portrait is a diptych – front and side views – with the accused’s name and alleged violation burned into the side panels. Although the series harks to a time when sex workers were “low women” and gay men could be charged with “crimes against nature,” Houston’s light and sensuous impasto treatment performs a kind of literary time travel, drawing these individuals forward to a contemporary sensitivity, revealing and in a sense returning to them what the original arrest documentation took away – their essential humanness. Mixing subtle shadings of emotion – melancholy, remorse, shame, even defiance – with direct looks almost painful to meet, Houston creates a reckoning between subject and viewer: who’s judging whom?

“One hundred years before the selfie,” says Houston, “photography was an elaborate proposition and the demeanor of the suspects at that significant but unwelcome moment of the policeman’s shutter click is uniquely unmasking. I was struck by the difference in expressions in the frontal shots – pleading or defiant – and the more withdrawn introspection in the profile shots. I took pleasure in painting them, and in the process of discovering and getting to know these individuals. But more than that, I felt a sense of obligation.”

Shown at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. April, 2017.

Offered for purchase from the artist. Price $850 per pair. Further info here.
For inquiries, please contact Penelope by email: penelope@penelope.net

All oil on panel, 30 x 30 x 4 cm, 2016/2017.

Carl700Carl Shogren, 20, 1920.
Carl2700Carl Shogren, 20, 1920.
Geli700Geli Madeline, 34, 1919.
Geli700Geli Madeline, 34, 1919.
Herbold700Albert F. Herbold, 39, 1931.
Herbold700Albert F. Herbold, 39, 1931.
Jean700Jean Harris, 23, 1938.
Herbold700Jean Harris, 23, 1938.
William700William Williams, 1919.
William2_700William Williams 1919.
Grace McIntyre, 31, 1938.
Grace2_700bGrace McIntyre, 31, 1938.
William Smith, 1919.
BSmith2_700William Smith, 1919.
Gladys_700bGladys Hennessey, 42, 1938.
Gladys2_700bGladys Hennessey, 42, 1938.
Sherlow2_700Frederick C. Sherlow, 27, 1934.
Sherlow700Frederick C. Sherlow, 27, 1934.
Wells2_700Carolynn Wells, 23, 1938.
Wells700Carolynn Wells, 23, 1938.
Babeco700Chris Babeco, 32, 1921. Sold
Babeco2_700Chris Babeco, 32, 1921. Sold
Sarah2_700Sarah Alexander, 21, 1938.
Sarah Alexander, 21, 1938.
Henry700Henry Friedrichs, 55, 1931.
Henry2_700Henry Friedrichs, 55, 1931.
Della700Della Bohland, actress, 1919.
Della2_700Della Bohland, actress, 1919.
Kane700Harry Kane, 52, 1921.
Kane2_700Harry Kane, 52, 1921.
Connie700Connie Woods, 23, 1919.
Connie2_700Connie Woods, 23, 1919.
Alfred700Alfred Jolliffe, 28, 1932.
Alfred2_700Alfred Jolliffe, 28, 1932.
Babe Russell, a dancer, 1919.
Babe2_700Babe Russell, a dancer, 1919.
edge1on the edges. Read more about these images on my blog.