"What' s Mine Is Yours", curated by Stephanie Brenner, 2011

What’s Mine is Yours

What’s Mine is Yours

Curated by Stephanie Brenner

How do we decipher between narcissistic visual diaries and introspective explorations?

People take photographs of themselves and their loved ones habitually, posting them on Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, YouTube or any available online source where they can expose themselves in an attempt to gain attention. When viewing self-portrait and personal narrative photographic work it can often be difficult to get passed this narcissistic self-consciousness that is so prevalent in our culture today. Of course there are great differences between everyday pictures and artists’ photographs, including aesthetics, time and effort, knowledge of the photographic medium, but most importantly, emotive conceptualism. Photographers like Elinor Carucci, Yijun “Pixy” Liao, and Lupita Murillo Tinnen who work in genres of self-portraiture and personal narrative are required to be both sensitive and fearless while revealing themselves and their loved ones. These artists use the personal as a foundation for universal themes that resonate with us whereas the everyday gets lost in cyberspace.

Liao’s artist book, Pimo Dictionary is an extension of her ongoing series Experimental Relationship, which questions traditional ideas about romantic relations. Pimo Dictionary is literally a lexicon of terms derived from everyday conversation and the daily life of Liao and her lover, but in no way is it superficial or one dimensional. Made over the course of her artist residency at CPW in summer 2010, she uses her relationship with her younger Japanese boyfriend, Moro, as a basis for the exploration of sex and power roles, differences in Japanese and Chinese cultures, isolation, disconnection, love and hate. The text is accompanied with images of them together; both are very aware and posed in front of the camera. This artist book, although quite witty and humorous, is an extremely personal portrait not only of Liao but her other half as well. Her fearlessness may have taken her too far in a certain part of the book as Moro scratched out a line of text and wrote “not okay :( -Momo.”

Similarly, Carucci’s photograph, “Grandma Get Dressed”, captures a loved one in a moment that could be interpreted as embarrassing and private, and is indicative of her ongoing photographic exploration that captures the intimacies of her and her family. Carucci’s grandparents, parents, husband, and now children have been the main focus of her work since she started taking photographs at the age of 15. Carucci’s photography reveals the detailed aspects within everyday family relationships and motherhood. Although Carucci utilizes close ups to make her work simultaneously more intimate and universal, her portraiture work of her family members like that of “Grandma Get Dressed”, who are often nude or in various states of undress, exude great understanding and at times vulnerability.

Lupita Murillo Tinnen turns the camera on herself in the series Mourning Sickness made over the course of her artist residency at CPW in summer 2008, while exposing the extremely intimate pain associated with her three-year struggle with infertility. She shares her vulnerability and grief to the world through imagery of cathartic private performances captured in silent, lonely, and bare spaces. Tinnen explains in her artist statement, “accepting the fact that I may remain childless has been the most difficult struggle, the biggest challenge I have ever faced. It felt much like grief and so this work is about the empty feeling and numbness that I felt as I was going through the grieving process.” Although her work is a distinct personal narrative, the content is relevant, especially to the 7.3 million American couples that have had difficulties conceiving.

Self-portraiture and personal narrative work can be controversial but ultimately it stems from making art about what you know best – your life and your loved ones. Whether that is selfish, narcissistic, or brave is entirely up to the viewer. This kind of photography requires generous honesty and thought, and can be used as a way to purge emotions, gain perspective, or to even relate to the rest of the world. Together the works of Laio, Carucci, and Tinnen act as a generational progression of womanhood, starting with Laio’s artist book as young romantic love, Tinnen’s series as the trials of potential motherhood, and ending with Carucci’s photograph of the oldest and most experienced matriarch. These artists reveal their own intimate relationships with family and their experiences of womanhood and motherhood. They deal with the vulnerability of exposing themselves and their loved ones as a result of their creation. In the end these artists make work that while deeply personal transcends individual experience and addresses universal themes that can resonate with us all.

– Stephanie Brenner, Arts Administration Intern, 2011