Students will create (either using physical layers or Photoshop) a self-portrait that represents the multi-faceted layers of their personality and identity.
National Core Standards
- Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work
- Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work
One or two class periods
- Photograph of student
- Map from the internet
- Reproductions of artwork by Nikki S. Lee, Mai Thu Perret, Frida Kahlo, Yasumasa Morimura, Shirin Neshat, Ken Chu, Orlan, Cindy Sherman
- Photoshop (optional)
- Transparency or tracing paper
- Examine background and artworks by Nikki S. Lee (focuses on assimilation and taking on cultural / subcultural identities of others), and Mai-Thu Perret (focuses on social activism and utopian communities).
a. Nikki S. Lee was born in South Korea and educated in New York. She is interested in how one’s identity is constructed in relation to others—how our sense of self can be affected and altered by the presence of other people. Paris  is one of eight Paris photographs included in her Parts series, which Lee created from 2002 to 2005. Each Paris work shows the same woman (Lee herself) in different settings, posing and interacting with male partners. But viewers see only the hands or other body parts of the partners—using scissors, Lee literally crops the images of these men out of the photographs. She says, “The purpose of the cut is to make people curious about the missing person and to think how his identity has affected the woman who is left behind.” Because she uses her own disguised body in photographic work, Lee is often compared to other female artists such as Adrian Piper and Cindy Sherman. However, with her petite Asian body as the subject, Lee presents a nuanced inquiry into gender and racial stereotypes. In the Paris photographs, the settings are luxurious locations in that city, and her missing partner is a white male (his race identified through his skin and hair). In these well-appointed environments, normally accessible only to the French upper class, Lee’s “performed” self almost fits in, but not quite, though her clothes, makeup, and demeanor are perfect. This discrepancy causes us unease with our own gender and racial identities. (from http://umma.umich.edu/exhibitions/2015/in-focus-nikki-s-lee)
b. Contemporary multi-disciplinary Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret “fuses feminist politics with classic modernist abstraction and utopian dreams. Her installations synthesize a range of media and genres--including literature, design, craft, and performance—-conjuring an imaginary alternate history of twentieth-century art, design, and social activism” (http://umma.umich.edu/content/mai-thu-perret-ideal-living). Perret does not use representational portraiture to reference questions of identity. How does this affect the interpretation and message of her work?
- Other artists to consider are: Frida Kahlo (exploring the multiple faces of identity),Yasumasa Morimura (assuming the glamorous identity of popular American icons of the opposite sex through costume and pose), Shirin Neshat (changing of the physical body through text on the body), Ken Chu (hybridity), Orlan (changing of the physical body through plastic surgery), and Cindy Sherman (representation of self as multiple identities).
- Each student should begin with a map, chosen because it represents a central memory or a place central to the student’s identity.
- On the map, layer a photograph of the student. If using Photoshop, students should use layering, marquee selection, magnetic selection, opacity of levels and zoom to further explore digital manipulation.
- Further layers, such as personal objects, natural materials, or patterns can be added and manipulated.
- The final layer is a hand-rendered transparent layer, attached to the surface of the work, giving students the final power to choose which parts of their projects to reveal or highlight and which to conceal. Like Lee, students can use scissors (or the crop tool) to edit their relationship to others and make the viewer question how their identity is related to their environment.