Meredith MacLeod poses with her dog, Mica, in front of some of her portraits. On Jan. 1, she’ll talk about the public response to the interactive art exhibit. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Meredith MacLeod poses with her dog, Mica, in front of some of her portraits. On Jan. 1, she’ll talk about the public response to the interactive art exhibit. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

‘First Impressions’ draws out viewers’ reaction

Meredith MacLeod’s 100-day portrait project on display until Jan. 1

Meet Meredith MacLeod.

What do you see?

A woman with gray hair, quirky, bold black glasses and a stylish sense of dress.

Grandmother? Artist? Sky diver?

Confident? Shy?

Magician?

If you chatted her up at a party, would you walk away knowing she’s divorced, dabbling in online dating and her children have always had fur?

Or that’s she’s successfully made a living selling her greeting cards, backpacks, bags and other “repurposed soft goods” under the company name, Stubborn Twig Design?

Quick-glance, chit-chat chatter are the stuff of first impressions.

And they are often wrong — wildly so.

First impressions intrigue MacLeod, who is an artist and writer but not a grandmother. She describes herself as shy and is often seen with Mica, her black-and-white silky-haired rescue dog.

MacLeod created an interactive art installations called First Impressions with 100 portraits she drew in 100 days.

The black and white sketches line the walls of the Bayview Cash Store’s first floor and continue up the stairs onto the second floor.

These are portraits of people she knows nothing about.

That’s where the interactive part comes in.

With clipboards, pencils and instructions, MacLeod invites the public to write down their own first impressions with the prompt: If you knew me you would know …

“I wanted to know what people see through their own lens,” she said.

Answers so far have been thoughtful, thoughtless, humorous, hilarious and unintelligible.

About 20 of the 100 faces are numbered and people generally picked two or three to comment about.

Hundreds of impressions are stuffed into a box that MacLeod occasionally opens. She plans to display the responses next to the portraits during a “post-impression” talk from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1.

The faces are just that — faces.

They aren’t Whidbey Island residents (except for one) and she doesn’t know their names or anything about them.

“The faces have found their way to me by means which are both surprising and inexplicable,” she writes in the exhibit statement.

Most are from images she saw while perusing through art books at Seattle’s downtown library.

MacLeod spent a lot of unanticipated time in Seattle while serving on a federal grand jury, 14 months to be exact.

So she got a local library card and spent her nights exploring the 11 floors of the cool honeycombed steel and glass downtown Seattle Central Library, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

She sketched some of the faces from the art books, and then drew a few more. Then, she committed herself to the motivational “100 (fill in the blank) in 100 days” method.

Both the art and the process are new for her.

“I committed to drawing 100 portraits as a way to discover a new expression of art and a new way of seeing the people around me,” she said. “It was an utterly unfamiliar approach that had no obvious root in my educational experience or my decades as a professional artist.”

The first portrait of the First Impressions exhibit is a self-portrait.

Beside the drawing is the answer of the artist to her own prompt: If you knew me you would you know….

To find out the rest of that sentence, visit “First Impressions” interactive art installation at Bayview Cash Store through Jan. 1.

To meet the artist and learn even more about Meredith MacLeod, and to read people’s first impressions, visit the Bayview Cash Store 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1 for the final day of the exhibit.

Meredith MacLeod’s interactive art installation “First Impressions” at Bayview Cash Store features 100 black and white portraits. At the exhibit’s entrance is a self portrait and her statement, “If you knew me you would know…” (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Meredith MacLeod’s interactive art installation “First Impressions” at Bayview Cash Store features 100 black and white portraits. At the exhibit’s entrance is a self portrait and her statement, “If you knew me you would know…” (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

“I like myself just the way I am.”

“I like myself just the way I am.”

“Today is the day.”

“Today is the day.”

“I am a Rhode Island intellect and academic who was told I would enjoy the free-thinkers of Whidbey Island. I was misinformed.”

“I am a Rhode Island intellect and academic who was told I would enjoy the free-thinkers of Whidbey Island. I was misinformed.”

“I have been told I am beautiful my entire life and I like it that way.”

“I have been told I am beautiful my entire life and I like it that way.”

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