female artists reflect on self-portaiture in the age of instagram

'SELF REFLECTION' brings together painters, photographers, and video artists using their own bodies to explore issues both personal and political.

by Hannah Ongley
27 September 2016, 6:35pm

marie tomanova, self portrait #24

Female artists have been using self-portraiture to explore personal and political frictions for centuries. But in an age where millions of selfies are uploaded to the internet each day, and misogyny — as last night's presidential debate made pretty clear — is still rampant, the female body remains a crucial medium through which to explore such issues. A new group art show will bring together 21 female artists using photography, painting, tapestry, collage, mixed media, and video to portray both themselves and their place in today's society. "Self-portraiture has been a staple of art and photography in history," says Coco Dolle, who co-curated the exhibition along with Untitled Space gallery owner Indira Cesarine. "With today's dissemination of the modern-day selfie, SELF REFLECTION ponders the legitimate essence of the female artist study as its own subject and muse awash in a pixelated sea of instantaneous gratification often misconstrued as self-advertisement." The Brooklyn-based performer's own contribution is a nude selfie that addresses censorship and acceptance while "drawing the viewer in an intrinsic desire to re-contextualize their relationship to the female form."

Ahn Sun Mi, Auto Portrait 3

While many of the 21 artists involved belong to the Instagram generation, others have been using their bodies as a vessel for social commentary since long before the app existed. Grace Graupe Pillard, whose recent composite photo series Grace Delving Into Art explores themes of sexism, ageism, museum policy, and public vs private, has been working with her own likeness since the 1970s. "I like to explore my body as it changes with time," she says. London-based photographer Polly Penrose describes the creation of her own self-portraits as physically punishing. "After ten years of photographing my body bending, holding on, fitting in, the pictures have become a mirror for me, and in their reflection people see a glimpse of what it is to be a woman now, with all the complexity, strength, and humor that it entails," she says, adding that the photos have become visual metaphors for how women fit into the myriad roles that society demands of them. 

Andrea Mary Marshall, Self Portrait as Venus de Milo

Some of the artists, such as Islamic-raised painter/photographer Sarah Maple, use the form to explore the difficulties of growing up with a mixed cultural background. "I think today there are many women using self-portraiture because we are tired of being told by the media, society and religion etc, who we should be or what we should look like," she muses. "I think by photographing ourselves we are reclaiming our image and finally controlling how we want to be seen in the world." Meanwhile Sophia Wallace of the celebrated Cliteracy project documents her romantic relationship with her girlfriend in an attempt to counter erasure and create an opportunity for public identification with queer subjectivity. 

"SELF REFLECTION" is on view at Untitled Space from September 27 through October 8, 2016. A reception will be held tonight from 6-9pm. 

Carol Anne McFarlane, Portait & Beads 1

ANGE, Every (GOP) Party Has Its Pooper

Marie Tomanova, Self Portrait #23

Sarah Maple, Recovering Misogynist 

Natalie White, From the series Natalie White for Equal Rights 2

Polly Penrose, Crowborough Road, TV Stand

Sophia Wallace, Truer No 7


Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of Untitled Space

Untitled Space