Susan Miller

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Susan Miller

Occupying the Portrait: (C)overt Acts of Self-Portrayal in the Art of Carter, Daniel Clowes, and Cory McAbee

Carter, Daniel Clowes, and Cory McAbee are three American contemporary artists who “self-present” in their narrative artworks, meaning that they are not simply making self-portraits, but frequently appear as themselves, intentionally, and often undercover, in their fictional projects. In addition to self-presentation, each invokes the tools of portraiture, conflating identification with identity. The resulting works are neither portraits nor self-portraits, but hybrids of the two. The philosopher Judith Butler states that identity is a product of social forces outside the self, and that agency is always possible within these external constraints. In considering works by these artists, it is possible to see how self-presentation operates in the visible and public platform of their fictional artworks to open up the possibility of agency—even personal transformation.

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