Portraits of the Self


On View: Selections from Portraits of the Self – Members of The Artists Registry. Top: Looking for Emily, Paint and Ink on Wood, by Emily Herr, 2007; Left, Portrait of the Artist in New Hampshire, Oil in Wood, by Erin McGee Ferrell, 2007; Right, Nativity, Digital Painting, by Luis Coelho, 2007.


The concept of self-portraiture opens up a wide array of contradictions.

From the introspective nature of self-conception, to the outward-looking nature of creating visual art, from revealing to concealing identity, self-portraiture is characterized by persistent contradiction. Honesty and deceit each play their part in facing the Self with its deep hidden truths, and in sharing these personal discoveries with others.

Displaying one’s Self to a viewing public presents risk and demands courage; and yet in the face of these fears the philosopher Hans-George Gadamer reminds us that self-presentation is the nature of play.

Identity is itself full of contradiction. The tension between body and spirit is no stranger to Christian dialogue. Identity is always constant and in flux. Self-discovery is a changing process, and carries its own elements of surprise and compromise. The struggle to find fitting symbols for human identity has always been problematic, and confirms that there is no perfect metaphor. But the challenge of symbolizing one’s own persona in visual art is at least as difficult a task. The artist who refers to linseed oil, threaded quilt, or stroboscopic pixels as a metaphoric extension of their personal identity introduces complexity, and further contradiction.

The artists in this exhibit present themselves within a wide range of interpretations. There are those interpretations that resemble the physical likeness of the artist, and we are quick to identify these as self-portraits. Others subordinate identity to the language of design, reminding us that a self-portrait is a glimpse of the Self injected into the world of visual dynamics, with all the peculiarities of the visual language and the limitations of a medium. Some of these symbols surprise us, and remind us just how private self-conception can be.

Even with our common humanity and faith, the many concepts we have of ourselves continue to be surprisingly diverse. The entries in this exhibit display the Self in various times, aspects, and situations. Many of these portraits deal with themes of pain, grief, fear, and irony that are a natural part of life, death, and growth. Together they embody the Christian message of faith and perseverance in the face of baffling contradiction––including that of the Self, which finds poetic expression through visual metaphor in this exhibit.

David C. Hancock, Curator

Portraits of the Self, Members of The Artists Registry

An Exhibition of Episcopal Church and Visual Arts

David C. Hancock is a contemporary painter whose work is grounded in the classical tradition and the study of the old masters. Hancock studied painting in Italy for three years before obtaining a diploma in painting from the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto and a B.A. in philosophy from Wheaton College.

Hancock’s work addresses themes of faith and philosophy from a contemporary perspective. As such, Hancock’s art is both challenging and educational; his paintings have been employed in schools, churches, and homes for meditation and the study, and have recently been adopted into the Jewish studies curriculum at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Hancock’s work has been exhibited and collected throughout the United States and Europe. His portrait clients include Jessica Simpson and Alaska Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman. Hancock was featured on the October 2006 cover of Art & Antiques, representing “Today’s Realism,” and was listed in “The Best Art of 2004” and “The Best Art of 2006” by The Artist’s Magazine.

In addition to painting, Hancock is an inspired teacher. He frequently conducts workshops for adults and underprivileged children, and remains active in academic scholarship. Hancock views art making and teaching as opportunities to share ideas and inspiration. He currently lives in Kansas City with his wife Cindy. Visit his website at www.DavidCHancock.com

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