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Portrait of the artist as a landscape. Or a robot.

Artlink's Self-portrait exhibit gives local artists a little face time

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-04-05


“As I sit here and look around the room, I see a lot of eyes gazing at me from off the walls,” says Betty Fishman, executive director of Artlink. This isn’t a story of mental breakdown; Fishman is describing the self-portrait show currently running at Artlink, which runs until May 12 and features 115 self-portraits by local artists.

The portraits are in almost every medium imaginable, from photographic reproductions to limestone sculptures to tapestry. There’s even a drawing with moving eyes (battery-operated, of course). “There are some that are a little different,” Fishman says. “The artist portrays themselves as a paper doll, as a hand creating art. There’s one artist, a landscape painter, who has turned her head into a landscape. There’s one person here who paints himself three different ways, so he has three different personalities he wants to show. Then you see some very traditional, beautiful portraits.”

“I think the artist probably has a little nerve to make an image of themselves and hold it up to criticism,” Fishman says. “I always admire artists who will put their work up for the viewer’s critique. A self-portrait is a little more personal.” Fishman says they were very surprised by the response they got when the call went out for the show. Previous self-portrait exhibits attracted maybe 40 to 50 artists. For this show, there were 115 submissions.

Whether it takes nerves of steel to put a self-portrait of yourself up for public scrutiny, or just a confidence in your own skills and abilities, the artists themselves weren’t saying. In fact, with most of the artists we talked to, “fun” seemed to be the primary motivator for participating in the show. “When I heard that they weren’t necessarily looking for traditional portraits, I thought it might be interesting to do something,” says Rick Callender. Callender’s self-portrait? A robot-like figure (or maybe the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz) with moveable parts . A lot of the artists seem to just enjoy playing with their own image like this. Waterloo artist Lina Zerkle’s self-portrait is a fiber hanging made out of fabric, with wire-framed glasses. “I work a lot in self-portraits,” she says. “I have fun doing it.” David Krouse, who created a limestone bust of his head for the show, says that he’s been exhibiting long enough, and has done enough self-portraits, that putting his likeness up in front of the public doesn’t really bother him.

If “fun” is the motivation for the artist, part of the appeal for anyone visiting the show might lie in something that Artlink hasn’t done in a self-portrait exhibit before: immediately below the artist’s piece is an actual photograph, taken by area photographer Chris Crawford (who is also one of the exhibitors with his own self-portrait in the show) of the artist holding his or her work. It makes for an interesting pairing, and Fishman thinks that people who come to the show will enjoy indulging in a little compare and contrast between the artist’s representation of themselves and the photo.

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