the self-portrait sessions
CB1 Gallery is pleased to announce our third solo exhibition with New York artist Susan Silas. In this exhibition, titled the self-portrait sessions, Ms. Silas will present photographs, bronze and beeswax sculptures and a video work. The exhibition will open on June, 4th, 2016 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and runs through July 16th, 2016.
The works in the self-portrait sessions began as an exploration of privacy and what Ms. Silas refers to as self-intimacy, meaning the way in which we are different alone with ourselves than we are with others. At a time when privacy is disappearing and we are under constant surveillance both in the public realm and in our homes and on our computers, our notion of what privacy means is undergoing serious questioning and change. In these images, the artist places herself in front of a large mirror, and returns her own gaze. The reference to Lacan’s mirror stage is obvious and yet the degree to which our self is constituted through our own self-reflexive gaze vs. the gaze that is cast on us by the outside world is deeply intermeshed and impossible to tease apart. At the same time, body integrity and the boundary between inside and outside seem pretty basic. But as we submit to myriad platforms in which we voluntarily hand over information about ourselves or simply photograph ourselves and share these images ad infinitum, the assumption that privacy is sacrosanct and that interiority is both vital and indispensable no longer seem to be universally shared values. Hence the notion that artificial intelligence can replace man, and may in fact. In Silas’s photographs there are multiple reflections but the mirror has disappeared from view, creating a liminal space or ambiguity, about which space is “real” and which is a reflection. Over time, the images themselves suggested content to the artist that was not initially conscious; the examination of the aging female face and body.
Self-portraiture was explored by the artist in the late 70s and a few of those images resurfaced when her family home was sold and one b & w image from 1979 is included in the exhibition. Ms. Silas also began to cast her face in plaster in 1992. This project was picked up again in 2012 and the artist now casts her face yearly in the spring, keeping track of the changes in appearance from one year to the next. Five plasters have been cast in bronze and in beeswax for the exhibition ranging from the first cast made in 1992 up to the most recent in 2015. The casts show dramatic change, first in a twenty year leap, and then more subtle changes in yearly increments. By contrast, in a series of eight color photographs, the artist documents changes in expression taking place from moment to moment. Ms. Silas was inspired by the life masks of President Abraham Lincoln on view at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, the extraordinary beeswax busts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by the Italian artist Medardo Rosso and especially by the eighteenth century German sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, whose “character heads” evolved out of a ritual of making faces in front of the mirror.
Ms. Silas’s work has been featured in Anti-Utopias, Camera Austria, Fotómúvészet, Heist. Photography Collective, and Artnet magazine and reviewed in Hyperallergic, Artforum, Art in America, the Village Voice, and the New Yorker. Her occasional essays have been published in the New York Times, Theo Westenberger Estate, Exquisite Corpse, thirteen.org REEL 13, Frog, and Podium. She is a regular contributor to the online art magazine Hyperallergic and co-editor of the artblog MOMMY. Ms. Silas has been interviewed on the radio by MsRepresent: Behind the Face, a Fierce Woman, at Rabble magazine, Museum of Non Visible Art at Yale University Radio, ArtonAir. org., and the BBC. She has been awarded residential fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, The Corporation of Yaddo, VCCA, Ucross Foundation, New Space Arts Foundation in Vietnam and the National Parks Service at Everglades National Park. Ms. Silas received her BA in History at Reed College in Portland, Oregon and her MFA in Fine Art at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California.
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