The Female Gaze

2016-2017, Risograph printed, Senior Thesis

Self-portraiture has been visited and re-visited by artists throughout centuries. People have always found the need to represent themselves, both visually and metaphorically. Throughout art history, self-portraiture has been used to record a period of the artist’s life or simply because it was the only subject they had on hand. Either way, self-portraits give us an insight that can’t be found in historical text or even firsthand experiences. Female artists have been seen as illegitimate members of the art community and were instead objectified and viewed mainly through the lens of the male gaze. Only in recent decades with the rise of feminist ideologies have women been recognized by art historians.

Because of this, my goal was to focus on the lives of five distinctly diverse (in terms of time period, content, circumstance, level of fame, medium, method, etc.) female artists and the way they have used their art to represent themselves. Amongst these is Italian Renaissance artist Sofonisba Anguissola, 20th century Chinese painter Pan Yuliang, well known Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, recently discovered photographer Vivian Maier, and contemporary artist Carrie Mae Weems. Using relevant texts and images, I created a book that links these five artists together and creates a comprehensive visual of female self-portraiture.