Friday, June 13, 2008

Me, Myself and I in Carnegie

Self-portraits present a special challenge to artists: for, if as they say, the eyes are the window of the soul, then the artist must gaze into these portals and oft time reveal much more than the superficial likeness. This has been the case of the truly great artists who have answered this challenge—Rembrandt, van Gogh and Frida Kahlo have given us a glimpse of their joys and sorrows exposing their very character therein. It is, perhaps, why Picasso painted so few self-portraits.

Often embedded in the artist’s portrait is the artist’s statement—the philosophy that permeates his or her career. The color, the form, the medium, and the style take on greater importance when they are applied to the likeness of the creator. The dominate style of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists is realism and the genre is well-suited to this show at the Third Street Gallery. Artists who hold a mirror to nature are a natural choice to hold a mirror to themselves. Even within the narrow range of representationalism, the artists have chosen many paths. Some works depict the artist at work or with the tools of their trade. Some use photographs to show us how they were; such are the case in Sandra Ward’s Photorealistc “Then and Now” and the masterly-rendered still life, “Artist’s Reflections” by Diane White. Some artists place themselves in a montage of their interests. Ruth Richardson does this beautifully in watercolor while Martha E. Ressler is “Unabashedly Me” in an assemblage collage.
Sometimes artists go beyond the artist’s world to include universal truths. James Rettinger’s sculpture, “You Look Like You Father” reminds us that we all eventually become our parents. And sometimes the work becomes the very embodiment of the artist. Lila Hirsch Brody’s exuberant construction is Lila Hirsch Brody. But the piece that most impressed me was Amy Dimichele’s “Self –Portrait.” Simple, yet sophisticated, this delicate painting brought to mind the work of Tamara de Lempicka (although Ms Dimichele is more Cubist than Art Deco.) The artist’s intense concentration represents and effort not to simply get it right, but to get it me.

“Me, Myself and I” continues at the Third Street Gallery through June 28.

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