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Mirror, Mirror on the Gallery Wall: Contemporary Art Exhibition at BYU
Mark Khaisman, Ani and Sofi, 2004, packaging tape on plexiglass, 36 X 48 in. Image courtesy of the artist.

PROVO, UT.- Portraits reflect more than a person’s mirror image. They reveal—and sometimes conceal—certain aspects of a person’s identity. While portrait artists play a role in creating that identity for some, many contemporary artists hold up a mirror to the process of identity creation itself—examining how people shape their identities and how they seek to change other people’s perceptions about themselves.

“Mirror, Mirror: Contemporary Portraits and the Fugitive Self,” a new exhibition at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, features 56 works of art by 32 local and international artists who trace the influences of rituals, facades, social media, and the family on the formation of individual identity. Ultimately this exhibition examines what it means to be human beneath the veneers of identity we accumulate in society. This exhibition will be on view in the Conway A. Ashton & Carl E. Jackman Gallery on the museum’s lower level from Friday, October 23, 2009, through Saturday, May 8, 2010. Admission is free.

Visitors to “Mirror Mirror” will see cutting-edge contemporary works of art in a variety of media including installation art, painting, photography, multi-media and video art. The exhibition includes works by notable artists from across the United States and around the world, including Aram Bartholl (Germany), Rebecca Campbell (California), Hasan Elahi (Bangladesh/California), Harrell Fletcher (Oregon), Douglas Gordon (Scotland), Oliver Herring (Germany), Nikki Lee (Korea/New York), Feng Mengbo (China), Takashi Murakami (Japan), Julian Opie (England), Rachel Papo (Israel), Prezemslaw Pokrycki (Poland), and many others. The exhibition also features works by Utah artists, including Valerie Atkisson, Amy Jorgensen, Jeff Larsen, Michael McGlothlen and Nate Ronniger.

“Portraiture has enjoyed a rich tradition in the history of art,” said Jeff Lambson, curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Art. “However, since the advent of modernism, artists have been less constrained by the limitations imposed by patrons and have freely explored personal identity, creating truer portraits that tend to examine the human condition in a more incisive and critical manner. The interplay among the diverse perspectives of the artists represented in this exhibition reveals individual differences and shared commonalities in a global community.”

The works of art in the exhibition address three themes relating to identity. Some works relate to rituals that shape identity. These works explore the influence of societal forces such as education, economics, religion and the family, as well as the influence of rituals and behavioral routines that shape who we are. Other works examine the facades, mirrors and masks we “try on” as we search for our “true” identity. These works address this search by scrutinizing the way we dress, the kind of music we listen to, the books we read, the friends we make, and the activities we participate in. Additional works question what remains when all the layers of assumed identity are stripped away. These works of art seek to remove the external veneers of portraiture, examining what is beneath.

“Mirror, Mirror” also explores the impact of new technological mediums on the traditional art form of portraiture— thoughtfully analyzing the ways in which these mediums prompt new explorations of identity. A number of works in the exhibition address phenomena such as online multiplayer video games; social networking Web sites, including Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr; and the ease of capturing and sharing images and video.

“It is significant for our time that this exhibition poses the question of how we establish our true identities in a world of digitally mediated multiple realities,” said Herman du Toit, Museum of Art educator. “Ultimately this exploration helps to reinforce the enduring and eternal nature of personal identity and brings us back to the Divine nature of selfhood.”

An audio tour featuring insights from some of the artists represented in the exhibition will be available on visitors’ cell phones and as MP3 files on the museum’s Web site. In the next few weeks the museum will also be introducing the details of a Web-based portrait competition that will allow museum visitors to submit portraits that will be judged online by other museum visitors.

Brigham Young University Museum of Art | Mirror Mirror | Jeff Lambson |

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