A new art exhibition will display the work of local artists who are reinterpreting the concept of the self-portrait.
“More than a Face” opens today at the Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery on Audubon Street and features 23 pieces from nine New Haven artists, including Jessica Cuni, Anne Doris-Eisner and Thuan Vu, among others. The exhibition focuses on atypical depictions of self-portraits — none of the works on display show the artists’ actual faces. Marissa Rozanski, the exhibition’s curator, said the artwork instead depicts landscapes, objects, scenes and various symbols that the artists think are reflective of their personalities.
“I want it to be a space where [viewers] look at what they wouldn’t immediately think of as a self-portrait and kind of reorient and reevaluate the subject matter,” Rozanski said.
Three featured artists interviewed emphasized that they believe the exhibit subtly explores the degree to which every piece an artist creates is a “self-portrait.” Cuni said she thinks that any work can be a self-portrait because it is inherently a representation of the artist’s unique experiences.
Rozanski said that because the featured artists are allowed to freely interpret the concept of self-portraits, the works in the exhibition range from sculptures and drawings to combinations of artistic media. The concept lends itself to very accessible and symbolic pieces as well as abstract interpretations of the self, she added, noting that the pieces include detailed drawings of brain MRIs to outdoor landscapes.
“Because the themes of the show really depend on one’s individual interpretation and reflection of the show, it is inherently going to be very diverse,” Cuni said.
Cuni and Doris-Eisner added that the challenge of finding objects, symbols and scenes that represent artists as individuals often result in particularly personal pieces.
Vu’s “self-portraits” depict landscapes that represent his parents’ escape from Vietnam to America during the Vietnam War. He said he thinks that making a self-portrait in such a manner illuminates how it can represent a mental state rather than a physical appearance.
Doris-Eisner said that creating a piece of self-reflection that does not depict the physical self allowed her to discover new ways of understanding her past experiences. An example of such a work is her piece “Fertility,” which provided a vehicle for her to reflect on a painful part of her personal history.
Debbie Hesse, director of artists services and programs, highlighted that the Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery caters well to emerging curators looking to organize exhibits because of the gallery’s atmosphere and level of recognition within the community. Artists interviewed added that the space doubles as a office area with cubicles and narrow hallways, which brings benefits as well as drawbacks when showcasing the type of work featured in the exhibition.
“It creates an intimacy that encourages one to be up closer to the piece,” Doris-Eisner said.
The exhibition may provide an opportunity for viewers to engage in some self-reflection of their own and think about what their own non-facial portrait would look like, Cuni added.
Vu said he hopes that visitors will take the time to piece together the artists’ identities based on their “self-portraits.”
“I hope they can sense the humanity behind the work and feel who the artist is behind the work,” Vu said.
The exhibition will close on Jan. 2, 2015.