Monday, February 16, 2009

Me and myself

self portrait in bathroom mirror and bedside table
Something I've come back to repeatedly in my drawing and painting is the self-portrait, and I am certainly not alone among artists when it comes to autoritratti.  I think about this ritual a lot.  Why a "self" portrait?  Maybe the answers are obvious-- I'm a free (or at least cheap) and always available model.  I (possibly like most artists) am obsessively self-absorbed.  Am I a narcissist, or do I just want to know more about me?  I hope the answer is the latter, but always fear it's the former.  I don't like the way I look, but maybe it's that I like that I don't like the way I look, so I do like the way I look.  (Critical thinking starts to fold in on itself here, and I often find myself getting nowhere). 
self portrait sketch self portrait from life ink self portrait self portrait sketch
Because I use a mirror to do self-portraits most of the time, my process is often present in the work-- a glimpse of a sketchbook, the scrutinizing posture, etc.  This contextualizes the portrait as a part of art-making--is it me, or is it what I'm doing that I'm (we're) looking at?

My friend Chris Turbuck's entire body of work is essentially a self-portrait.  His drawings and paintings and prints recall scenarios and events from his life.  In the works Chris is vulnerable, naive, frustrated, self-flagellating, etc.  Yet as the author of these pieces he is self-possessed, driven and conspicuously confident for his very depiction of his humiliations and embarassments.  His narratives are of course also very entertaining.       
        An exercise of/for/with/against bureaucracy  Chris Turbuck  copyright 2009

The self-portrait is for me a ritual or exercise that I come back to periodically.  For Chris it is central to his reason for making art.  Maybe it's that the distracted virtuoso in me--the one who wants to try to draw architecture or tackle some new medium--is fearful of the "limitations" of such a purposeful vision, even though Chris is often every bit as daring if not more so in his tackling of each new project.  But I am the nevertheless compelled to return to the self-portrait.  I usually seem to find something good there.

studio full length mirror self portrait

1 comment:

  1. I cannot express, well enough, the enormous
    delight I have had in reading this here post.
    Thank you for such a share.
    And for the candid, yet humorous expression of 'self'.
    Bairbre Aine