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Facing Self: The Artist Revealed
October 31, 2020 - November 30, 2020
—Pat Steir, quoted in Carter Ratcliff, Pat Steir Paintings (New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1986), 10.
The artist – as sole creator – determines how they will be seen, viewed and remembered through self-portraiture. Consciously or not, as Alfonso Ossorio declared, “Every artist projects a philosophy in everything he does.”  By carving out their own sense of identity with a language and style uniquely their own, they determine what that framework will be and how it will be used to communicate how they want to be seen, viewed and remembered. Whether through abstraction – using light, color, texture and emphatic brushwork – or employing a more figurative, representational mode – self-portrayal is a unique and singular expression that tells a complete story of the artist and their intentions.
Fully in control, artists also determine the lens through which they will be seen – whether with critical introspection, wit and humor or cool detachment. Artists choose their style, palette, setting, emotional state, pose and accoutrements to symbolic effect – ones that describe, enhance or aggrandize their sense of self for themselves and for the world at large. The artist chooses what to reveal and what to leave, instead, to the imagination. They include objects or companions in order to express what is important to them as a record of time. Sometimes the moment represents a very finite time in a very specific place and thus, we could watch the artist grow if we wanted to, observing the toll of age over the years as life continued onward. Other times, this moment of being is one that is projected or imagined, one that transcends time and place – a version of the artist in a space that is not so readily recognizable and familiar.
 Alfonso Ossorio, in Forrest Selvig, “Oral history interview with Alfonso Ossorio,” November 19, 1968, transcript, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/ oralhistories/transcripts/ossori68.htm.
 Robert Arneson, quoted in Jonathan Fineberg, A Troublesome Subject: The Art of Robert Arneson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 13.
 Arneson, quoted in Fineberg, 98.