The 17th century Dutch term “tronie” refers to heads, faces, or expressions depicted in works that were not intended to be formal portraits. Rather, they were meant as studies of interesting expressions, physiognomy, or facial character. Frans Hal’s painting Jester with a Lute, in the Louvre, Paris, is a good example of this genre as were well known works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and others.
In 2002, during a work-related project carving styrofoam to test a number of coatings, Post was surprised as a head emerged from the block of foam. Never considering herself a carver, she was startled at the results. The continued carving of heads represents a major shift in her work.
Michelle Post’s 3-dimensional tronies are not traditional portraits. Colorful, expressive, engaging and humorous describe these inventive concoctions of observation, imagination, artistic style and technical command. In these larger than life-size head/plinth compositions, Post focuses on the features and expressions of anonymous people. They are not idealized, not a pretty or handsome media face, nor a particular person; yet, they are somehow familiar.
These 21st century tronies arise primarily from Michelle’s imagination. They all are informed by a lifetime of stored observations. The original pieces are carved directly in Styrofoam then modeled over which softens and unifies them, then painted in an expressive manner.