self portrait #14, photograph
“Self-portraiture is a singular in-turned art. Something eerie lurks in its fingering of the edge between seer and seen.”
– Julian Bell
I have begun a series of self-portraits which is a new endeavor for me. I must admit it’s one I have mixed feelings about already…
Certainly there is a long tradition in most art forms of doing self-portraiture. I’m sure some of it comes from the ready availability of the subject. And they are certainly willing to do what they’re told. On the other hand, it feels sort of self-indulgent to think that anyone else would be interested in looking at a picture of you. And many of us (particularly those of my age!) don’t find it as rewarding to look at our physical selves with such scrutiny anymore.
It’s been said by many artists in many ways that every image we make is in some sense a self-portrait. They all reveal something about ourselves. I’m sure that how we represent ourselves directly in a self-portrait reveals even more. To be subject and object, seer and seen at the same time presents a unique opportunity to contemplate how we feel about ourselves and how we wish to be seen by others. By objectifying the self, we give it shape and allow it to be observed analyzed in new ways.
What have your experiences been with self-portraits? If you have avoided them, why? What have you learned from doing them?
You’re very brave, in my opinion. I find self portraits quite difficult. There may be a number of psychological reasons for this, but some of it is that I don’t have what I believe is an interesting face compositionally, or structurally. I just watched a documentary on Alice Neel and have decided that, as you have written, to objectify the self might be a good start. As you probably already know, she painted people who interested her and who would not be labeled classically beautiful. Gee, that’s nearly all of us, if we want to be harsh, right? As a result, all of her subjects became beautiful…hmmm.
This self portrait is very engaging. I look forward to your series.
I think you have to objectify yourself to avoid feeling completely self-indulgent. I’m taking a very stylized approach to the series, as you can see, which helps hide many of the things I regret when I peer into the mirror!
self portraits are very intriguing to me– if you go to
http://mickmathersartblog.blogspot.com — he is a digital collage artist– in his side bar he has a link to his ongoing self portrait series at Flickr— his self portraits are amazing