Blog / 2008 / The Look That Looks at Itself
April 23, 2008
I’ve painted one or two self-portraits in my short time as an artist. Okay, the number is closer to twenty in the last eight years. Clearly, the self-portrait is something I enjoy! I feel freer to do a certain kind of learning with my own face rather than with someone else’s.
Adding significantly to the tally is the fact that I include a self-portrait in each one of my conceptual series as a way of acknowledging my biases in the work and anchoring the series in my own experience.
I painted this self-portrait for a Continuing Education painting class at the PNCA when I was sixteen. Until this piece, I had completed just one painting in acrylic: a rather unconvincing copy of Van Gogh’s Starry Night for a project in a high school French class when I was fourteen. There’s a certain Van Gogh thickness to the way the paint is applied in this portrait. I’ve since taken to watering down my paints instead of painting in relief.
I was still at university when I painted this. It was my first painting on stretched material. I painted on a printed fabric wall decoration that my mother had put up in my room when I was a child. The fabric was a bit flimsy to be working on without a backing, but I was hooked.
This portrait is part of the series Critics Critiqued. I was putting the final touches on the series, when I realized that I had omitted at least one critic worth putting in the hot seat. I am still my own worst critic.
This is how I like to think I am—strong, almost Amazonian!—but my friends tell me I really look more like My Own Worst Critic. Self-portraits are a separate kind of truth.
Part of a group of five portraits I painted for my parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary: portraits of the whole family, including the dog.
This painting is from Snow Days. I cast myself as the narrator, helping the audience access a different side of the trusted strangers whom we invite into our homes every day.
This portrait is from the Trickster Project, a series in collaboration with a theater piece.
This painting belongs to the series Private Masks. The subjects in this series all work with death on a daily basis, so I almost didn’t include myself in the series. Then it hit me that portraits have everything to do with posterity.
This portrait is part of Public Faces. An artist should be a contributing member of society.
Part performance art, part traditional portraiture, this piece belongs to Mutually Beneficial. It’s the first self-portrait I painted as part of a pair with another person.
This diptych brought together everything I was thinking in my series about what it means to be a woman, Swollen.
I painted this self-portrait for Apple Pie, which is all about what it means to be an American.
This is the first of my portable portraits, which I call You Bags. I have since painted several more with other people’s faces, including my nieces, my brother’s sweetheart, and my dear friend.
January 12, 2015
For more about the psychology behind a self-portrait and the five factors that impact the way artists represent themselves, check out this video.
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