By: Alexandra Florescu
The This is Me, This is Also Me exhibit at the McMaster Museum of Art curated by Sarah Brophy and Janice Hladki will run until Mar. 21, 2015, and features an extensive collection of self-portraits by both Canadian and international artists. From polaroids to paintings to videos, no artist’s rendition of themselves is alike.
Among my favourites is a collection of four black-and-white prints by Làszló Moholy-Nagy. What sets his work apart is his use of negative space to represent people doing everyday things like jogging and talking. Instead of someone standing in a doorway, there is a solid black door with the white cutout, its missing occupant hanging out in the bottom of the page. In the space where the man used to be is a sniper aiming to take out the cutout of the other man, who is talking to a woman. This piece, titled Jealousy, is my favourite of the four prints for its simplicity and the way in which seemingly unrelated shapes and objects make a cohesive piece.
Another interesting piece is one that appears to be a wall-sized painting of three men lying in bed. As you cross the length of the room to get a closer look at the painting, you realize that there is one very clear difference setting it apart. Instead of being made out of standard paint brushwork, it is completely comprised of small blue, yellow, red, black paint splatters on a white canvas. It is remarkable that the only difference between the men’s faces and the white pillows behind their heads is how close together the splatters are. Details like the rosiness of cheeks, shadows on the face and even a faint trace of stubble were captured with only four different colours of dots. The piece is titled Baby Makes 3 and is done by three artists A.A Bronson, Jorge Zontal and Felix Zontal to portray an unconventional nuclear family.
Rebecca Belmore’s iconic White Thread is even more impressive in person than it is on the museum’s website, the ink-jet red a powerful contrast against the starch white of the cloth behind the model. From head to toe, her body is wrapped in a red cloth. Her contorted pose is provocative and shocking, creating the exact effect that Belmore, an Anishinaabe-Canadian artist that has been creating performance art for years, wanted. This specific photograph is representative of war in Iraq, and falls along the same lines as her past pieces, which portray the politics of identity.
Another personal favourite can be found in the back room of the exhibit, where Baaba Maal’s “Akkag-Addu Jam” is set to a silent video of a woman wrapping, unwrapping, and rewrapping a red cloth around her head. The woman, Grace Ndiritu, is first concealed completely by the cloth, but as the drum beat-driven “Akkag-Addu Jam” picks up in tempo, the cloth falls away and is contorted as she manipulates it. The piece is a representation of the use of cloth in different cultures, a passion that was sparked during her travels and has now become a vehicle for her empowerment of the silenced.
Other pieces in the exhibit includes a spoken word piece that uses heritage to define identity, Andy Warhol’s Portrait in Drag, Edvard Munch’s Self-portrait with Skeleton Arm and Cathy Daley’s criticism of female fashion. It isn’t hard to find parts of your own identity in every piece. It makes for an exhibit that is both a vulnerable and powerful portrayal of what it is that makes us, us.