The Springfield Art Museum’s opening this week of the exhibition “Eye to I: Self-Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery” is timely.
The collection of approximately 60 works of art in a wide variety of media was curated by the Smithsonian at a time when the self-portrait became so ubiquitous that the concept was abbreviated as “selfie.” The Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok social media empires are built on the selfie.
“Self-portraits in general are always fascinating, especially now that everyone takes selfies and is self-portrait anyway,” says Sarah Buhr, the museum’s curator, who worked with the Smithsonian to present the national traveling exhibit in Springfield. .
Buhr says the Smithsonian sent him a proposal after he borrowed a piece for the 2018 exhibition “Frolic of the Mind: The Illustrious Life of Rose O’Neill”.
“We are thrilled because there are a lot of works in the exhibition that we could never show, or these are artist self-portraits that we have in our collection,” said Buhr. “It seemed to us to be perfectly suited to increase our collection. “
Buhr says the evolution of self-concept is evident through the different media used at different times. The first works were through photos, drawings and paintings. “Later, it’s video and sculpture. It becomes more symbolic than the portrait, ”says Buhr.
Buhr says that many of the works in the exhibition may be familiar, but not necessarily to their works as artists. A notable example is composer George Gershwin. Another is Broadway set designer Lee Simonson, founder of the Theater Guild who remained active from 1919 to 1940, according to his obituary in the New York Times.
Among the most remarkable is a triptych of Roger Shimomura’s reinterpretation of “Washington crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze in 1851. “He puts himself in George Washington’s shoes,” explains Buhr. “He’s him in the guise of Washington, and he replaced the white men with stylized Japanese kabuki characters.”
Some artists have explored a more idealized sense of self. Buhr shows the lithograph by sculptor Claes Oldenburg. “It’s a humorous awareness of himself. His tongue sticks out and I think it’s more introspective about him as a person and his own flaws, so I think it’s maybe a little more honest in the way he sees himself, ”says Buhr.
The exhibit – which runs until Jan. 17 – straddles “This and That: Cartoons by Bob Palmer,” a late editorial cartoonist for the News-Leader.
Museum director Nick Nelson said the overlap was intentional. Editorial cartoons examine who we collectively are, while self-portraits show how we have seen ourselves over time.
“It will be a really exciting exhibition,” says Nelson. “I think both of these shows are about holding a mirror to us both literally and figuratively.”
Want to go?
What: Eye to I: self-portraits from the National Portrait Gallery
Or: Springfield Art Museum, 1111 E. Brookside Drive
When: 24 Oct Jan 17
Hours: 10 am-6pm Tuesday to Wednesday; 10 am-8pm Thursday; 10 am-6pm Friday-Saturday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; closed on Mondays
Cost: Free, but donations are accepted
Info: 417-837-5700 or www.sgfmuseum.org
COVID-19 Note: If you would like to see the exhibit but don’t feel comfortable physically visiting the museum, the museum will post photos of the installation on its Facebook page.