Sunday, May 30, 2010

Faceless Self-Portraits?

Most people’s idea of a self-portrait conjures up the image of a face. For the face is usually the most identifying visual characteristic of a person. When we experience a person’s physical presence we drink in their unique countenance; the eyes in particular. The eyes on a face are said to tell volumes about a person! They are often referred to as “the windows to the soul”, and are passages for intimacy. As an adolescent who expressed herself through paintings, I developed a habit of painting in the eyes in last. In doing so I felt as if I was finally infusing life and personality onto the canvass. A successful self portrait frequently gains it’s force from the presence captured in the eyes. So, how does one set out to effectively capture their own presence without ever showing their eyes?

In my personal communications with others I love face-to-face dialogue and lots of eye contact. It is therefore quite challenging for me to communicate through my self-portraits without ever facing the camera! I often end up deleting many of my photographs because in the urgency to express myself I look straight into my camera lens, and forget to look away before the ten second timer goes off. A fruitful photo shoot is usually one in which I’ve taken all communicative energy that naturally exists in my face and eyes, and moved it into my body. As most of our communication relies on kinesics anyway, I do not experience this as a sacrifice. Instead, I have found that in facilitating my desire to give my audience a powerful sense of my presence, without ever showing them my eyes, I inevitably stumble upon new means of visible expression. Expressing myself in this way, I offer others a visual experience of me.

What does it mean, then, to offer someone a visual experience of oneself? Must it include one’s face and eyes? Although a handful of observers have asked that I include my face in my self-portraits, most appear to gain a satisfying sense of my person through the appreciation of the other ingredients in my art. I contemplate this as I create my faceless self-portraits, and concoct recipes that will allow me to do so without entering too quickly into the classic image of a face. That is something I’d like to gradually work my way towards. Reserving my eyes for a grand-finale self portrait of sorts, seems to make the photographic journey leading up to it as enjoyable as a pre-climactic ascent of sorts. Not just for me, but, hopefully, for my audience as well.

I most delight in imagining that perhaps my photographs are like bridges connecting me to various audiences all over the world. Sometimes the connection can be very intimate, as when a person identifies with my work. I am told that the potential for this seems to increase as a result of my hiding my face and eyes. The vagueness of what I look like acts like an invitation for other women to see themselves, and their own emotions in my self-portraits. I find this merging of the artist with the observer very exciting and mysterious! How can one be certain they are regarding a particular person’s portrait unless it includes their face? Maybe my self-portraits are really portraits of something beyond myself, which includes everyone. Maybe in the undefined lines of my very exclusive, identifying characteristics, I open up my art to an inclusivity that embraces all women. I would like to think that I do: that in my faceless portraits I may actually be exhibiting the universal female face, at least to a tiny degree.

1 comment:

  1. Sinceramente admiro lo que logras sin mostrar tu rostro, ya que en una mirada o en un gesto se transmite tanto y hacerlo de otra forma es bastante complicado, pero tú lo logras.