Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

This content is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship support of The University of Minnesota.

Caught and recaptured: Mary Gibney’s mug-shot portraits

Last Saturday’s opening festivities for Mary Gibney’s "Head Shots & Found Faces: Mug Shot Paintings & Weegee Street Portraits" exhibition at One on One Bicycle Studio was successful commercially (35 pieces were sold) and aesthetically.

"An artist friend of mine said it was 'a contained statement full of emotion,' " said Gibney, who spent the better part of last year painting portraits of obscure mug shots culled from Mark Michaelson’s 2006 book, "Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots."

"That kind of captures it. One of the highlights of the show was having that feeling that people made a connection with the work and felt the same emotions I felt when I was painting them. It made me think, 'This is why people go to the trouble of actually having a show.' It’s more than just making sales; it’s feeling like people are seeing the same thing you are in some weird way."

Now the mug shots, once relegated to the dustbin of history and police blotters, decorate homes in the Twin Cities and beyond. Check out Gibney's work.

"I got an email from a friend who bought two. He said, 'Wouldn’t it be great to know more about their lives? But I’ll just have to be satisfied for making up my own stories for Minneapolis Blonde and Fedora Guy,' " said Gibney, whose husband, musician Rusty Jones, notes that "Mug Shots" dovetails nicely with two other portrait-centered gallery shows at the moment: Melba Price’s "Rapture" at Midway Contemporary Art and Elizabeth Peyton’s "Live Forever" at Walker Art Center.

For her next project, Gibney is considering painting mug shots of arrested Minneapolitans, but says that anonymous faces in the crowd still have a pull on her imagination and creative juices.

"A friend of mine who works at the police department downtown said they’re purging their files, throwing stuff away, and she brought me this huge envelope with all these mug shots from the ’80s," she said. "I was like, 'This is gold!' She said, 'I’ll get you more.' They’re all public record, so. ..."

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox