Face to Face: The Craniofacial Department Portrait Project is the first program of its kind in the United States. Studio Incamminati's artists, in partnership with The Craniofacial Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, painted portraits of children with craniofacial conditions to help them see themselves in a different light.
Eight patients with craniofacial conditions, between the ages of 7 and 25 years, were paired with artists from Studio Incamminati. Psychologists documented each child's experience of being a portrait subject and measured whether it impacted their psychosocial functioning.
The portraits themselves were completed over multiple sittings which enabled each patient, artist and the patients’ family to develop a unique relationship. Patients and artists collaborated on the composition of the portraits. Patients were able to choose clothes that expressed themselves and to pick out the pose that felt most comfortable to them. Each participant received a framed print of their completed portrait.
The artists and patients were interviewed about their experiences with the project before and after the portraits were painted. The exit interviews reveal that the project had a positive impact on how participants felt about themselves, enhancing their resilience and helping them look at themselves in a more positive light.
Craniofacial problems are complex medical conditions that can disfigure a child's skull, face and head, and affect his ability to speak, breathe, hear and eat. Craniofacial problems can also negatively impact a child's feelings about herself, as well as how she is treated by others. Having a facial disfigurement can make a child vulnerable to poor self-esteem, body image dissatisfaction, depression, social anxiety, isolation, social rejection and discrimination.
Despite this, children with these conditions show resilience and strength. They strive to return normalcy to their lives by going to school, playing sports, exploring interests and spending time with friends and family — often while coping with major surgeries and other therapies throughout their childhood and adolescence. Unfortunately, in our beauty-focused culture, their stories of courage, perseverance and resilience are often overlooked.
The project was conceived and developed by two psychologists who are experts in the psychological aspects of plastic surgery, in collaboration with CHOP craniofacial and plastic surgeons:
The artists are members of Studio Incamminati, the Philadelphia realist art school founded by internationally renowned portrait artist Nelson Shanks. Each of the artists underwent extensive screening by Dr. Crerand before being selected to participate in the program. They included:
The eight completed portraits were exhibited publicly in fall 2010 in the new Colket Translational Research Building at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as part of the effort to highlight the challenges and strengths associated with living with a visible difference. Face to Face will continue as an ongoing project.
The Face to Face Craniofacial Program Portrait Project was funded by a grant from the Edwin and Fannie Gray Hall Center for Human Appearance at the University of Pennsylvania.
For more information about the Face to Face Portrait Project, contact Canice E. Crerand, PhD by e-mail or phone at 267-426-2279.