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By contrasting these seven works, discuss the idea of the self (me, the artist, my portrait, my body) and what leads the viewer to identify with these works - Essay Example

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By contrasting these seven works, discuss the idea of the self (me, the artist, my portrait, my body) and what leads the viewer to identify with these works

Organized loosely around the principle that a mimetic representation is one that "looks like" the subject, or more specifically has a photographic component to its content, then the self portraits of Chuck Close, Bruce Nauman, Andy Warhol, and arguably Christian Schad are mimetic in nature. Provisionally, while the Christian Schad painting lacks a photographic realism that the others to some degree or another elicit, the facial features of Schad in the self-portrait insofar that they are meant to correspond to the actual features of someone's face do so successfully. One could reasonably suggest that they could imagine a human being looking like the character in the Schad painting. This notion of being human plays an important role in our theoretical development of identity. Our responses to human facial features are deeply programmed into our biology, our ability to recognize pain, ecstasy, surprise or indignation based on the slightest of facial movements is highly refined. Moreover, our penchant to anthropomorphize animal behaviors speaks to our deep desire to "find the human" in our world. Our concept of identity and self is intimately tied to the species of which we count ourselves as members. Thus some of the other pictures such as the Picasso, or The Tree of Life, or Psyche do not immediately strike us as examples of real people depicting their identity. This resistance derives from an inherent preference for human features, namely the eyes in order to properly judge identity. This preference is intimated by the phrase, "looking a person in the eyes," in order to gather something about who they are as people. This sort of species-mimetic cage of identity of self is exactly the sort of prison that the works of Ana Mendieta and Gina Pane are explicitly trying to escape. Though interestingly the photographically influenced works are not totally submissive to this warden of identity and each in their own way seeks to subtly subvert this dominant paradigm.
Chuck Close is most intimately associated with the Photo-Realist school, whose emphasis was on technical mastery and detail. Though Close has worked with a number of different media formats, in this screenprint a photo is gridded and each individual block is then transposed onto a larger canvas. The work is intentionally pixilated to foreground this method, and as a result the notion of a photo-realistic portrayal of Close is oddly transformed into a somewhat fuzzy understanding of the identity of Chuck Close. One can choose to parse that in any number of ways, possibly that one "true" identity can never be literally transposed anywhere.
Bruce Nauman's, Self-Portrait as a Fountain, seems less concerned about the nature of identity transposition and more focused on analyzing the semiotic chain between self and object. One might suggest that the print is a picture of some person spitting water out of his mouth and little else. The evidence for this is in fact compelling. Because of the photo-realistic image we are in little doubt that that person is or was in fact a human in existence somewhere in the world. In this sort of tactically blunt interpretation it might also be held that the water flowing out of ...Show more


The autoportrait or self-portrait does raise critical questions about the fluid and plastic nature of identity; furthermore, the nature of self-representation manifests the subject-object tension in visually interesting ways. In the comparison of seven artists' self-portraits, this paper will attempt in a general way to elucidate some of these issue of self-ontological construction…
Author : goyettechaya
By contrasting these seven works, discuss the idea of the self (me, the artist, my portrait, my body) and what leads the viewer to identify with these works essay example
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