featured gallery for December 2015

Radiant Presence: Self-Portraits from the Registry

Photographic self-portraits convey many things to the viewer, not least among them an invitation to consider the artist’s own self-regard and perhaps a privileged look into the maker’s private world or inner psyche. Many of the artists in this selection of pictures from the Visual AIDS Artist+ Registry depict themselves in frank dialogue with the camera—sometimes even without the protection that clothing or other artifice might provide. For each of these, however, there are equally as many images where the photographer has disguised him- or herself as something or someone else. These role-playing guises—whether the donning of a paper mask of poet Arthur Rimbaud, as in David Wojnarowicz’s haunting series shot on New York City streets and back alleys, or dressing up like singer Joni Mitchell, as in John Kelly’s well-loved impersonation—speaks to the ability of artists to evoke ghosts from the past or visions of the future within the debatably forthright medium of the camera. Most importantly, though, the self-portraits in this selection speak to the enduring power of the camera to preserve an extraordinary visual record of the myriad lives HIV/AIDS has touched and all too often taken.