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January 30, 2011
By Nonie Wainwright
The Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery is currently displaying “MYSELF,” a free visual art exhibition, through Feb. 18. This large, survey-style multi-media exhibition includes more than 66 artists, including several university faculty, staff, students and alumni, from around the world and explores the theme of contemporary self-portraiture. “MYSELF” displays how people see themselves in today’s society of increasing globalization and the wavering boundaries of nation, race, gender, political affiliation and age.
According to Marji Vecchio, director of Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery, self-portraiture is important because it provides a perspective of the artist as they look back on him or herself, and also expresses cultural insight into the time period and conditions under which the art was created.
“Self-portraiture throughout time has been something that appears to be a private observation,” Vecchio said. “The art world functions like a roller coaster; what’s popular constantly changes. Self-portrait is one of those themes that will never go away.”
“MYSELF” debuted on Jan. 18; concurrent with "MYSELF TOO," a large student self-portraiture exhibition in both Front Door and McNamara Galleries, organized by University students Andrew Griego and Michelle Lee.
“This is by far the best exhibition our department has shown in a long time,” Art Department Chair and Professor Howard Rosenberg said. “The incorporation of our student artwork with the professional artwork is an extraordinary situation that really highlights the high quality of our students’ work.”
The name of the exhibition, “MYSELF,” and “MYSELF TOO” are used in all capital letters in reference to how the pronoun, 'I' is always used in capital letters.
“It is a twist on all the different words we can use to reference ourselves,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio’s long interest in self-portraiture sparked the idea to hold the exhibition.
“I wanted to see how individuals see themselves today; we are in a time of self-indulgence as people are functionalizing themselves and mythologizing their lives,” Vecchio said. “It’s not just revealing of oneself, it shows culture too.”
The 66 artists have come from all over the world, most from the United States and about 20 artists from abroad with varying levels of artistry from graduate school students to people in their 70s. There were no limitations set in the show as all mediums were accepted; video, photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, fiber arts, performance and print making.
“The art submissions consist of many different themes,” Vecchio said. “We see pop culture, humor and joy, serious work that reveals health issues, depression, and the broken heart. Some are connected to nature through landscape and animals, along with historical references. All the art is very simple, very beautiful and elegant.”
Vecchio’s ideas of self-portrait are shared among participating artists in the exhibition.
“I think self portraiture is a reflection of how one truly sees the world, not just themselves,” said Megan Berner, a 2003 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. “We are highly creative people and the possibilities of who we can be are infinite depending on how willing we are to go there.”
Berner received a dual bachelor’s degree in photography and Spanish from the University prior to earning a Master of Arts in 2007 and a Master of Fine Arts in intermedia and drawing in 2008, both from the University of Iowa.
Intermedia encompasses all non-traditional genres of art such as performance art, installation art and video. Berner’s submission to the exhibition is a digital photograph of her twin sister.
“My twin sister and I have collaborated extensively on the subject of identity and being twins,” Berner said. “My work has always been self-portraiture, whether a literal representation of myself is included in a piece or not.”
Berner manipulates her digital photos to make the work personal. She is then able to create fictional photographs that mimic historical documents.
“History is such a subjective topic and very personal to me; it was a perfect idea for a theme within self portraiture,” Berner said. “I like to question the veracity of those documents as well as creating new histories or alternate realities.”
Ariana Page Russell is another artist who uses photography to express her self-portrait. Russell graduated from Nevada in 2003 with dual bachelor’s degrees in fine arts of photography and in psychology. She later received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Washington in 2005.
Russell’s work uses skin as a focal point. Using temporary tattoos, her own skin and vintage mirrors, Russell creates self-portraits that reflect her vulnerability.
“In my submission, I wear temporary tattoos made of photographs of skin,” Russell said. “I place that tattoo on my skin before placing it on the mirror, this represents my skin in many layers. Adorning myself with these temporary tattoos made from photographs of my blushing skin, I wear this vulnerability as war paint.”
Chelsea Otakan, senior undergraduate student studying journalism and digital media at the University of Nevada, has created an exhibition catalog, where each artist gets one page for his or her image and description. It also includes a preface written by Jeremy Stern, a Master of Fine Arts student as invited by Professor Howard Rosenberg along with an essay conversation by co-authors Joy Garnett and Mira Schor.
The catalog is funded through ASUN and is dedicated to the memory of Emma B. Bernstein and Devon Hosselkus, two young artists who utilized self-portraiture.
Hours of the exhibition are 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday and Wednesday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday, and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Friday. The closing lecture will take place from 5:30-6:30 p.m., Feb. 17 and the reception will be held from 6:30-8 p.m.
Nonie Wainwright is a performing arts graduate assistant in the School of the Arts.