We Are: Self-Portraits as Artistic Exploration

How do you see yourself? How do your express yourself? Students from the Southside Occupational High School, a transition center for students with disabilities between 16 and 22 years old, addressed these questions through their art, creating a series self-portraits using a printmaking process. The result was We Are… Artwork by Students from Southside Occupational High School, an incredible exhibit on display through the end of the year at Harold Washington Library Center. If you’re interested in other artists finding their “self” through their work, try one of these books.

Self-portraits come in many forms, including photographs. Street photographers Vivian Maier and Lee Friedlander used similar methods to capture their own likeness through film, often taking pictures of themselves in reflections of storefront windows or mirrors. Is a “selfie” considered a self-portrait?

Although most are digital now, there are a few analog photobooths still in working order. Here are two books that compile photobooth photos from different eras: American Photobooth, which explores the history of the photobooth featuring photo accompaniment, and Photobooth, which explores different artists who used photobooth photos as a form of self-portraiture.

Like the students of Southside Occupational High School, some artists use mixed media renderings to express how they see themselves. Self-portraits is a great place to start. It profiles 35 artists who were known for either a single or series of self-portraits and a brief history about their other work. If you want to take a look at more contemporary works, Portrait Revolution shows international artists weighing in on different artistic mediums and techniques.

Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh focused heavily in self-portraiture. In Frida Kahlo, contemporary artist Judy Chicago explores the artist's life through a feminist lens. Van Gogh Face to Face features six essays by art historians on Van Gogh's self-portraits accompanied by color pictures of his work.

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