These photographs are from an ongoing series of self portraits in which I photographically emulate classical paintings from Western art. In this series of photographs I have tried to express my feelings as a woman growing older in a youth-obsessed society. The portfolio is also a loose narrative reflecting my experience of facing breast cancer, whose treatment disfigured my body. My hope is that viewers will confront preconceptions about youth, age, beauty, and body image when looking at these pictures.
The project began as I was experimenting with a new 4x5 view camera. Some of my first pictures were reminiscent of beloved paintings. I became intrigued with how little it took to evoke a classical painting,and decided to place myself front-and-center into various icons of Western art.
By respectfully personalizing these paintings, I have connected with the artworks in an intimate way, and hope to bring some of the less well-known works before new viewers. For those already familiar with the original paintings, I hope my interpretations cast the traditional works in a new light.
Although this series is about coming to terms with different stages of life, loss, and aging, the images are also conceived with humor and playfulness, strongly inspired by Nina Katchadourian's “Lavatory Self Portraits in the Flemish Style.” I have also been influenced by previous photographs in this genre, including Cindy Sherman's “History Portraits,” and I am aware of loosely related work by Yasumasa Morimura, David Seidner, Bill Gekas and Sandro Miller.
Instead of slavishly re-creating each source artwork, I prefer to sacrifice features of the original while adding new touches to make an image that is both recognizably the painting but also purely me. I have eschewed almost all make-up, and rather than constructing elaborate decor, costumes or props, I create simple sets using my own house or backyard, everyday objects, and my own, borrowed, or home-sewn garments whenever possible. My husband, Leonard Shar, is an invaluable collaborator.