Identity & Language

Identity & Language

Expressing and discovering identity


The self portrait is the quintessence of expression in terms of identity.  Artists throughout history have relied on the self portrait for reasons beyond the fact that the self is the most readily available model.  Self portraiture forces the artist to examine their own beings closely, and is a deeply intimate form of art.  It is a reflection of how the artist sees themselves or how they think they are seen by others.  It is a way for artists to question what they know, to challenge what we know about them.  Frida Kahlo used self portraits to force the audience to confront her reality.  They address her physical injuries, gender, and cultural heritage.  Cindy Sherman uses self portraits to take on new identities.  Identity can be expressed beyond the self portrait as well.  Kara Walker's work is set in the Antebellum South, using folklore to explore her identity as an African American Woman.  The work of all these artists comment on society as a whole as well- the shared experience of women of different cultures. 


Language and identity are intimately connected, and because of this art is intertwined as well.  If language influences how we think about ourselves, it must influence the art that is created.



Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

Cindy Sherman- Untitled Film Still #21

Cindy Sherman- Untitled, #139

Kara Walker- Slavery! Slavery!