the self portrait has been around since people have been making decorative art. at some point during the making, the maker realised that they could put themselves into the work. perhaps this is where our myth of god creating us in his image comes from, our deepest memory as a creator.
accurate and prolific self portraits were only possible when mirrors could be made reliably. yet creators still tried to make likenesses of themselves, they just utilised a more interpretive style. artists have often had to struggle financially, as often medicine men have struggled, when the spiritual work they do is misunderstood or unnoticed and using the self as a model solves a certain financial issue. historically women have been barred from traditional forms of art education, using themselves as models they could study the human form outside formal instruction. reading the choice of a self portrait contains all of these nuances of meaning.
the self portrait is best discussed from a shamanic viewpoint. a shaman is called by the realm of ideas, the more the individual ignore the call the more hardships one will experience until actions are what the memes want. after the shaman survives the bombardment of the ideas, usually in their realm, inside some altered consciousness, the shaman is now a healer of those specific ailments. the self portrait is an outward manifestation of the artist’s struggle with the interior world, the realm of memes, ideas.
it is generally understood that capturing a portrait of any variety is more than just a physical representation of the person. a portrait shows, status and the outward mask of the person. it can also try and show the interior of the person, their mood and mind frame. a self portrait does all these things, but rather than an interpretation of someone else, it is a honest proposal from the artists heart about themselves. often a portrait is flattering, especially if commissioned, an artist must be careful about commentating in a negative fashion about the patron. a self portrait is freed from the restraints of niceties and if the choice is made to be flattering there is a deeper meaning than money or simple vanity.
a self portrait may be unapologetically critical. a self portrait may go into dark psychological corners or make statements that seem dangerous and marginalised but some instance, some facet will speak to each person that takes the time to connect with that statement. the self portrait is a still moment in the performance of life. the medium is the message. a live performance is telling you to feel things in your body, a self portrait to feel things in your mind. really embody it within yourself that is the message of these types of art.
perhaps the inner memes of the individual need to stretch their wings and souls. a self portrait can allow for a moment of creative role-play. a scene of ones self in an improbable, impossible or wished for situation. if positive visualisation is good for making the best outcomes in life, the physical act of posing and making the piece of work must also draw on the same power. fire the imagination of yourself and viewers of the work, keep surprise and wonder alive in the frozen images of your soul.
it isn’t just vanity, or self promotion or showing off the talent of their artistry that drives creators to make self portraits. it isn’t just a selfish drive, but a selfless one as well, balancing the desire to be seen and heard with the need to speak the universal truths that flow into our minds and souls. it can also be the window to see the fears and insecurities of those that can be considered giants or at least less accessible to “regular” folk, reinforcing that we are all indeed consumed by the same doubts. how brave to lay those fears out bare on your sleeve, to own them as yours and then share with strangers, who will in some small part become your friends.