Blog / 2012 / Narcissism in Art

July 10, 2012

painted portrait of a blond man on a very textured cloth
Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on monk’s cloth
20 x 20 inches

In certain circles, portraiture is dismissed as the ultimate in ego-stroking, pure vanity art. When I sniff out instances of that snub, it always makes me giggle a bit.

The people who tend to look down on my favorite genre are usually artists who refuse to create portraits. And that means that it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle “black.” After all, if portraiture is about the narcissism of the subject, then it follows that any art that isn’t portraiture must stem from the narcissism of the artist.

Or, then again, what if we looked at the problem in an entirely different frame?

painting of a red fox, close up with dynamic brushstrokes
Gwenn Seemel
Outfox (Red Fox)
acrylic on panel
10 x 10 inches

What if, instead of making these brash psychological judgments, we take a step back and evaluate in terms of usefulness?

Portraiture is useful in that it gives its subjects a unique perspective. They get a glimpse of how others see them and that’s invaluable feedback for them as individuals.

Work in other genres is useful in the sense that it gives the viewer an intimate look into the mind of another person. By sharing as they do, artists are giving others a new way of looking at things.

Art isn’t a self-indulgent luxury unless we make it so. Artists of all kinds are the future-makers if only we allow ourselves to be.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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