Painters have long created self-portraits to present themselves to the world, but the advent of selfies inspired curator Thomas Drymon to survey the works with fresh eyes.
“That was sort of the genesis of the whole show,” Drymon says. “I’ve spent the last year looking at social media and the way people present themselves online and the choices they make. … I’m a painter myself and I like painters. And so I [started looking at] self-portraits because I thought that was kind of telling about themselves — the choices they made in the medium, the way they painted, and their viewpoint.”
The resulting show, Portraits of Self As Other, now at the Studio Gallery, features six artists who approach the self-portrait from various angles, from the personal narrative style of Kanchan Balse to the formal and conceptual work of Joren Lindholm. For the exhibition, Drymon, also included works by Laura Elkins, Paul Pietsch, Amanda Kates and Alexander Atkinson.
“The thing about this show is that even though people are painting portraits, they find new ways, new approaches,” he says. Elkins is a case in point, with a series of portraits in which the artist’s own features are combined with those of First Ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. When Elkins first moved to the area over a decade ago, Drymon explains, “she became really fascinated by the way first ladies are portrayed and how first ladies and the media control their images to the public.” And over the past decade Elkins has expanded on the series to include ever-more-complicated “issue-based self portraits.”
“She has a new series about corporations,’ Drymon says, “where she paints herself as Michelle Obama wearing a McDonald’s uniform, and Hillary Clinton working at Walmart, for instance. It’s really pretty amazing that she can continue to stretch this idea.”
Portraits of Self As Other runs to Jan. 31 at Studio Gallery, 2108 R St. NW. Call 202-232-8734 or visit studiogallerydc.com.