Joseph Anastasi's subjects may not be what visitors to the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center are accustomed to.

Joseph Anastasi's subjects may not be what visitors to the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center are accustomed to.

The portraits Anastasi paints show a real, unfiltered look at the lives of central Ohio's homeless population. The works portray the subjects as the world sees them -- often flawed, desperate or hopeless.

But the pieces also show what passersby may miss. After spending time with each subject, Anastasi aims to capture the side of them that may be less obvious. It takes longer than snapping a photo and painting what he sees, but Anastasi said it's what makes the paintings work.

"I got to know these people," he said. "I can talk to anybody. I could talk to a fence post."

The idea to put a spotlight on those who are often overlooked didn't appear out of thin air, Anastasi said. The Upper Arlington resident has been volunteering his time to work with the homeless for 15 years, largely with the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Columbus.

In 2013, at one of the dinners he was working, he made an offer to those in attendance. He said he would give a dollar to anyone who let him take a photo -- to be used for a painting -- and had a conversation with him.

He expected a few responses, but was stunned to see a line form to talk and pose for him. He had too many subjects to fit into just one night, he said.

Months later, Anastasi -- a retired marketer and designer -- put his paintings together for his first exhibition at the Undercroft Gallery at St. Joseph Cathedral in Columbus.

Now, Anastasi's work is coming to Worthington at the MAC. His exhibition, Art and Soul: An Intimate Portrait, runs through the end of the year at the center, with Anastasi giving everything he can to charity in the process.

Jon Cook, executive director of the MAC, called the true-to-life portraits "powerful and a little unsettling.

"Sometimes, art captures the essence of the soul and that is what Joseph has been able to do with this exhibition," Cook said. "These are not just paintings of homeless people. They capture the gamut of emotions -- pain, joy, sorrow -- and are very powerful."

Though the paintings can sometimes be considered "unsettling," Anastasi said there's much more to the images than the surface-level portraits of people in a dire situation. Along the way, he said he discovered something "beautiful" in his subjects.

"If I feel that with a person -- the drug addiction, the struggle -- yes, I want it to be unsettling. But that's not all of them," he said.

"I found wonderful spirit in these people and a dignity that people don't expect. I thought that if I could capture that dignity, I could transcend just portraits of people on the street."

When he began showing people the paintings in 2013, he said he got a similar response, confirming how he felt about the work.

"I kept hearing those words, 'powerful' and 'spirit,' " he said. "That's exactly what I was going for."

In his own experience, shifting from a "general or abstract" view of homelessness to a personal one was life-altering for Anastasi. He said he hopes people can see his work and feel the subjects' stories, attaching a person and a face to the problem.

"When you know them personally, it becomes personal to you," he said. "You talk to them and you hear their stories. There's always a story. ... I'm hoping this show changes you, too."

The MAC is located at 777 Evening St. Admission is free.