Authenticity and the Representation of Self: Communicating Identity through Self-Portraiture Open Access

Studnicky, Bethany Brianne (2017)

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This thesis serves as an interrogation of the representation of identity in visual media. The primary goal of this thesis is to investigate the subjectivity of perceived authenticity as it relates to self representation in two visual mediums: painting and digital media.

I address three goals in this research. The first is to better understand the process of representing identity visually. The second is to experience and analyze the dialogue that occurs between an artist and their audience through art. Finally, the third is to view how components of the two visual mediums impact the way viewers perceive the authenticity of the represented images.

In this research I apply the notion of authenticity presented in John Berger's collection of essays Ways of Seeing to the two visual mediums. Specifically, I present a critical analysis of the perceived authenticity associated with original artwork as compared to the contrived authenticity of reproduced and marketized images. I use a series of my own abstract self-portraiture as an intimate case study to analyze the perceived authenticity associated with self-portraiture in original artwork. I then provide an analysis of the contemporary social media platform Instagram as a means to view the contrived authenticity associated with self-portraiture in digital media.

Table of Contents

Introduction 2
Chapter 1. Theories of Authenticity 5
Magritte: Painting the Image of Resemblance 5
Berger's Ways of Seeing 7
Berger's Notion of Authenticity 8
Chapter 2. Self-Portrait Series 6: Interactive Visual Arts Gallery 12
Introduction of the Exhibition 12
Methodology 13
The Creation of the Series, Symbolism, and Artist's Intent 16
Pre-production 16
Narrative of Production: Composition, Symbolism, and Method 17
Artist's Intent 28
Audience Response 33
Survey Question 1: Five Themes 35
Survey Question 2: Titling the Series 37
Survey Question 3: Demographic Information 44
Survey Question 4: Components of the Art 48
Survey Question 5: Did You Know the Artist? 54
Survey Question 6: Rate the Effectiveness of the Art 55
Final Reflections 57
Chapter 3. Agency, Choice, and Motives in Representing Identity 59
Introducing the Agency of the Individual 59
The Art of Self Invention on Social Media 61
The Story of Essena O'Neill 69
Conclusion 75
Works Cited 76

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