I turn the artist’s self-portrait, especially the woman-of-color’s self-portrait, long defined by identity, into a discourse on picture-making. I do this by visually cataloging painting conventions while using those conventions to make new meanings. I simplify form, and I include common motifs of the tradition such as hand gestures, swags of fabric, meeting the viewer’s gaze, creased paper presented as trompe l’oeil, architecture that frames a narrative, one-point perspective and the allegorical figure. I emphasize both the conceptual and physical work of painting by showing my subject reading, writing and handling canvases in the studio. With pictures within pictures, I depict paintings’ many modes —abstraction, text, naturalism, schematic description, graphic flatness and illusion. I repurpose painting ideas and approaches across time and geography including Egyptian form, Giotto frescoes, Hindu figuration and early American painting. I position this variety of artistic types within the context of figurative painting, and I replace the common self-portrait motif, the artist standing before the easel, with a broad portrait of the work of painting. By working strategically within paintings’ many forms and varied pasts, I knit my contemporary concerns, personal and painterly into the centuries old conversation of representation.
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