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Self-portraiture on Display at Daemen College's VPAC Art Gallery

In their own image

The self-portraits by local artists living and deceased on show at Daemen College range from straight and serious to laugh out loud funny. Some subcategories: symbolical enigmatic, histrionic, and exquisite. All works from the personal trove of artist in his own right and art educator and collector Gerald Mead.

Self-portraits of artists who otherwise aspire to make art that is objective—get the artist out of it, get the ego out—but understand that every work is a self-portrait, self-exposure, and so submit to the actual genre as to the extreme term of their art, but reluctantly. And self-portraits of artists who embrace self-exposure as the extreme term, but ironically. Or not.

Among the straight and serious examples, and exquisite—the categories and subcategories double up and overlap—is a charcoal on paper sketch by Florence Julia Bach in personal first maturity, neither young nor aged nor aging, and capturing a sense of the artist as grounded visionary, an amalgam of ideal and real. Tony Sisti’s self-sketch vaguely recollecting one or more examples by Rembrandt. Harvey Breverman’s title-page drawing from his Drawn from Life portfolio. The exhibit exemplar self-portrait you meet face-on as you enter, in oil on canvas, by Anders Fernbach.

Among the symbolical enigmatic is Marcus Wise’s end-on view of a pile or pack of white paper scrolls and one off-red scroll among them. Kevin Kline’s carrying case construction with camera and flash bulbs and mirror. Mark Snyder’s unidentifiable subject—himself or another as stand-in for himself—in bespattered white hood, truss-tied with windings of filthy twine, entitled Bound and Erased #106. Reminiscent, I thought, of both figures simultaneously—executed and executioner—in the ISIS beheadings photos.

Among the histrionic—comic histrionic—is David Mitchell’s self-portrait in Franciscan garb and Pietà pose—as the Christ figure, not the Mary, the Mary an angel with wings. But self-destructive victim in this case, the tell-tale Nyquil bottle just dropping from his pallid hand. And Josh Iguchi’s self-portrait as Christ crucified, plain and simple. An angel in this one, too. Hovering. Hanging on a string. A little stuffed angel, like a stuffed animal.

Seriously humorous examples—several of them along one wall—include Caitlin Cass’s cartoon portrait of a small cringing female figure and enormous book entitled “Everything you will never read,” with subtitle explaining that the volume is “merely a symbol, as the actual material is far too vast” to be depicted even symbolically. A self-portrait of everyman and woman. As also Pat Kewley’s drawings of two brains, “A healthy brain,” with pointer lines indicating various healthy brain parts, and “My brain,” with pointer lines indicating what’s going on where, like “shame,” “gross sex stuff,” “really disgusting sex stuff,” and “don’t even ask.” And book artist Scott McCarney’s poster-size display of paper name tags from projects he’s participated in, art events he’s been involved with, workshops he’s attended. A kind of curriculum vitae self-portrait.

And in the shy artist category, Richard Huntington’s self-portrait with hammer—the hammer and wall bracket it’s hanging on in the foreground and in focus, his face in the background, blurred and partly blocked out by the hammer and bracket. And Kate Parzych’s vertical strip segments of gravelly beach and frothy waters, with just her toes and feet in rubber thong sandals intruding into the bottom segment.

Other self-portraits by photographer Candace Camuglia (a double self-portrait, part in focus, part not, the focus on the photos in the background), Hollis Frampton (a still from a film), Mark Freeland (smoking something, drinking something), Amy Greenan (elliptical as the rest of her paintings), Jerome Greenberg (inventing the selfie), Michael Tunney, S.J. (naked on a beach, with large conch), and Tom Van Dusen (in palpable anguish). Many more.

The self-portraits exhibit continues through October 19.

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