Ultimate selfies: Artists mine emotions for oversize self-portraits

Abington self-portrait

Sophomore Lashawnna Simon painted a 10-foot self-portrait.

Credit: Regina Broscius

ABINGTON, Pa. — Think of the self-portrait as the soul-searching cousin to the ubiquitous selfie, and then walk into a Penn State Abington art studio. One is confronted by 10-foot-tall self-portraits that command the space and immediately feels the emotional impact.

"Why self-portraits?" Emily Steinberg, lecturer in art at Abington, said when asked about the assignment. "Because they are a great metaphor to talk about yourself and where you are coming from. They reflect the internal conflicts and concerns of the artists."

Steinberg asked her students to develop outsized and deeply personal self-portraits.  

"All four of these students touched on really interesting themes, very personal aspects, or reflections on their own personalities," she said. "It's their relationship with their hair, ADHD, their roots. They all attacked it with an enthusiasm and depth that I found compelling."

Steinberg offered her students feedback and direction as they assembled the final versions. 

"There are so many ways to get in and engage with the work," she said. "You make your own interpretation and bring your own stuff to it. It becomes a collaborative process with the viewer."

Abington self-portraits

Sophomore art major Jordan Miller initially developed 16 images and then pared it down to eight. His favorite medium is spray paint so he laid the pieces on a base of graffiti. Jordan identifies strongly with his hometown so he incorporated the Philadelphia skyline and the year of his birth, 1996, while he looks out over his city. He also included a memorial to his best friend. "Showing how fragile life is is the driving force behind my art," he said.  

Credit: Regina Broscius
Art abington self-portrait

Art major Gina Herrera's self-portrait focuses on her ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) diagnosis. She often feels scattered so she randomly assembled it to convey the feeling. The pinks and blues are medications, and the clock signifies the constant feeling of being pressed for time. The blocks of color indicate her feelings and mood swings: red = anger, purple = down, yellow = happy, green = neutral.   

Credit: Regina Broscius