self-portrait

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Art Photography

Photographer Zanele Muholi Finds Empowerment Through Bold Black-and-White Portraiture

September 12, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Isiqhaza” (June 10, 2018, Philadelphia). All images © Zanele Muholi, courtesy of African Artists’ Foundation, shared with permission

The striking portraits of South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi (previously) are easily recognizable. Shot in stark black-and-white, the images utilize heavy contrast and center on single subjects dressed in elaborate garments. These wearables are sculptural in construction and made from commonplace objects: clothespins are strung together as a necklace, dried grasses splay outward like the brim of a hat, and rolls of toilet paper cascade over a figure’s shoulders.

Muholi often works in self-portraiture and is known for photographing Black queer subjects as a way to explore the radical nature of identity and as a means of celebration and respect. “The work that I produce is meant to be for every person,” they say in an interview. “It could be a teacher. It could be a mother whose child is queer and wants to have a reference point to show their kids and say that you are not alone. And it could be for LGBTI people themselves to understand their worthiness.” Muholi views all of their works as collaborations with the sitters, who often gaze at the camera with direct, empowered expressions.

Many of the photos shown here are part of the group exhibition Dig Where You Stand, which is on view through October 9 at Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art in Tamale, Ghana. A project of African Artists’ Foundation, the group show engages with questions of decolonization and restitution and will travel to Lagos, Lusanga, and Lisbon in the coming months. Until then, find more from Muholi on Instagram.

 

“Sine II” (Melbourne)

“Bester” (May 2, 2019, New York)

Left: “Sine X” (March 17, 2020, Melbourne). Right: “Muzane I” (May 15, 2019, London)

Detail of “Jamile Face” (May 2, 2019, New York)

“Wenzeni” (2019)

Left: “Vika IV” (September 11, 2019, Cape Town). Right: “Aphelile X” (April 11, 2020, Durban)

“Vika III” (September 11, 2019, Cape Town”

 

 



Art

Graceful Women in Shades of Blue by Hanna Lee Joshi Express a Desire for Autonomy

June 30, 2022

Grace Ebert

“All That Has Come Before” (2022). All images © Hanna Lee Joshi, shared with permission

With long, elegant fingers and brawny limbs, the women that define Hanna Lee Joshi’s gouache and colored pencil works move through the unknown and indiscernible with strength. The Vancouver-based artist renders anonymous figures in motion, whether dancing together or gracefully gliding through water, on their search for greater autonomy and fulfillment unobscured by political, cultural, and social impositions. In comparison to her earlier series, Joshi’s most recent pieces rely more heavily on shades of blue and use more subtle gradients to contour a leg or elbow.

A reference to self-portraiture and a subversion of traditions surrounding nude figures, each of the works is  “a means of reflection, a way for me to distill down the tangible and intangible experiences of my life,” she says. “In a way, they are an extension of myself, portraits of emotions, explorations of unanswerable questions, a way for me to grasp at the immensity of life.”

Joshi has a solo show slated for December at Thinkspace Projects, and “Delicate Veil of Being” is available as a limited-edition print in her shop. Explore more of her introspective works on Instagram.

 

“Wild and Free” (2022)

“Every Last Drop I”

“Belonging”

“Every Last Drop II”

“Every Last Drop III”

“Delicate Veil of Being”

 

 



Art

Red Eyes Are Bold Counterparts to Subjects in Shades of Gray in Annan Affotey’s Portraits

February 17, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Annan Affotey, shared with permission

In his sensitive, introspective portraits, Ghanaian artist Annan Affotey (previously) sharpens the contrast between soul and appearance. His works are large in scale and rich with texture, and he often sets figures against solid, monochromatic backdrops with visible brushstrokes. Similar to artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Affotey renders his subjects’ skin in shades of gray and dresses them in vibrant garments and patterned accessories. The distinctions in color and fabric coincide with the figures’ facial expressions and gestures, all of which the artist uses as a prompt. He says:

The first assumptions made about people are based on sight. So things like skin colour, clothing, accessories, background, setting, and pose dictate emotion. There’s no guarantee those things match the character underneath. We’re often identified by what we’re compared to (or against). My work is a social commentary on this, asking the viewer to take a second look at what they read from my portraits and why.

Using a mix of acrylic and charcoal, Affotey also continues his signature red eyes, which reference his experience of being questioned about his lifestyle when he moved to the U.S. Now more bold, the recurring feature ranges from subtle halos around pupils to bright washes of pigment that spread across the sclera.

Some of Affotey’s figurative pieces are on view at both Arushi Gallery in Los Angeles and PM/AM in London through mid-March, and you can find more on Instagram. He also has two residencies slated in 2022, which will culminate in exhibitions in Saint Paul de Vence, France, opening on May 1 and another in mid-October in London.

 

 

 



Art Photography

Ornate Painted Patterns Conceal Photographer Cecilia Paredes Against Textile Backdrops

November 8, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Blue Flight” (2021). All images courtesy of Ruiz-Healy Art, shared with permission

Peruvian artist Cecilia Paredes continues her ongoing series of camouflaged self-portraits with deceptive new works that leave only her hair, eyes, and ears untouched. Set against lavish backdrops printed with birds in shades of blue, floral motifs, and ornate flourishes, Paredes paints her skin and positions herself in a precise alignment with the chosen pattern, disappearing among the colorful landscapes. Each work, which the Lima-born artist refers to as “photo performances,” considers how individual identities are informed by natural environments and the broader cultural milieu. Explore an archive of Paredes’s lavish portraits at Ruiz-Healy Art, Artsy, and Instagram.

 

“The Unseen Glance” (2021)

“Paradise Hands IV” (2020)

“The Whisper” (2021)

“The Forest” (2021)

“Magnolia Stories” (2020)

 

 



Art

Colorful Raw Wool Is Twisted into Expressive Busts by Salman Khoshroo

September 27, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Salman Khoshroo, shared with permission

Complementing his series of raw wool portraits, Iranian artist Salman Khoshroo shapes chunks of dyed fibers into expressive busts. The figurative sculptures capture an array of emotions and vary in abstraction, sometimes using aqua rovings for lips and eyelids and others remaining more faithful to a subject’s features. Whether an intimate self-portrait or mischievous character outfitted with jackal teeth, the pieces are evidence of Khoshroo’s perceptive, nuanced practice. “Constructing the face with transparent layers of thinned wool creates depth, much like glazing in painting,” he writes about his process. “I make self-portraits regularly about one every year. This one is the first sculpture and has a unique presence. (It) reminds me of my own mortality.”

Khoshroo recently moved from Tehran to London to study at Goldsmith’s University, and you can follow his work, which includes impasto portraits and other fiber-based sculptures, on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Posed Women Rendered in Vibrant Gradients by Hanna Lee Joshi Embody Loss and Acceptance

July 28, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Alignment of Virtue.” All images © Hanna Lee Joshi, shared with permission

Twisting into subtle backbends or hunching into a cross-legged crouch, the faceless women that find themselves at the center of Hanna Lee Joshi’s practice all personify an aspect of the artist herself. Conveyed through vibrant gradients in gouache and colored pencil, the figures shown here are companions to those the Korean-Canadian artist created last year, although they plunge deeper into themes of loss, acceptance, and inclusivity. “The magic and mystery of life can seem very fleeting when you’re in the pits of depression. I wanted to reconnect with that spark of fire within,” she says, explaining:

I’m working on pieces that explore finding my identity and the nature of the self. Reconnecting with my Korean heritage and accepting all the things that make up who I am. In the end, I am just a piece of this earth having an experience of the self, and I’m trying to make a visual representation of some of it.

The introspective subjects have signature features like elongated torsos and limbs, dark, glossy locks, and large hands gesturing yogic mudras that further visualize emotion and feeling. The women are subversive in color and form, deviating from the skin tones and body shapes typically associated with nude figures.

Joshi, who’s based in Vancouver, is preparing for upcoming exhibitions at Spoke Art SF on August 7, at Thinkspace Projects in October, and later in fall at Hashimoto Contemporary. Prints are available in her shop, and you can see a few works-in-progress on Instagram.

 

“Wheel of Desire”

“Liberation”

“Pursuit of Prosperity”

“I’m a Little Shy But That’s Okay”

“Sun, Moon, and Fire”