What is a portrait? A short definition given me by my computer: A painting, drawing, engraving or photograph of a person; a representation or impression of someone in language or film. Fair enough, as far as it goes.
A photograph is not only a representation of the person photographed, but a representation of the relationship between the photographer and the subject. The photographer gets to choose the split second to capture, thereby controlling to some extent relationship s/he wants reflected back.
Think of the world before cameras, however. Painters were the only instruments by which a person could have a lasting image preserved. Painters painted images that flattered (or at least, portrayed their subjects favorably) if they wanted to continue as painters. So the control of the relationship lay more with the subject than the painter.
What is the purpose of a self portrait to an artist? I am not necessarily referring to the narcissistic culture of the ‘selfie’. This is my impression of selfie culture: the idea that “I was here” at a particular moment or with a particular celebrity. I am sure there are valid artistic avenues to approach the cell phone selfie. But I am talking about well thought-out portraits of one’s self, photographic or otherwise.
I think that, an artist would wish to portray an aspect of his/her relationship with him/her self. That would be a project worth pursuing.
In today’s experiment, I use three vantage points to portray my relationship with my brother Mike, who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. Not being able to communicate with him means I have to make up a lot of information about our relationship.
In the abstract below, the icon representing me gazes at half my brother’s face in the mirror. Behind the mirror is the mechanism that makes Mike who he is: his brain. Somewhere in space or another (spiritual?) dimension is Mike’s avatar, gazing at himself.
Of course there are other narratives that would also hold up in this abstract expressionistic or surreal rendering. If you have any, I’d love to know them.