It was as though a meteor had suddenly streaked across the sky of my mind. For whatever reason, it had not previously occurred to me to ponder why artists create self-portraits.
Houston responded to Segal:
Isn't it perhaps because the 'self' is the most mysterious thing in the universe and most crucial to get at the riddle of...What am I? Who am I?
We can't say why we search except that there seems to be an innate need, or an innate call in each human being, more or less strong...But this need, this call to search, is to know who one is, what we're here for, what our destiny is, how to live more poetically...what our possibilities are.
I think Rembrandt is one of the great examples of a gifted man, who eventually came to realize that concentration, attention, and presence brought an element to his painting that went beyond the technical virtuosity. He was always a great painter and probably he could paint without thinking too much. But I think that the more he looked, the more he began to see beneath the surface. So when he did his self-portraits, one feels that he was able to penetrate through the exterior surface, to very great mysteries and knowledge. And by applying himself totally, he was able to bring this into paint and canvas, into a form to which we then respond.
The human face is very interesting, at least for me. Every face, ugly or fair, provides a model of complexity....My face is always there. I can always turn to a mirror. Instead of setting up a still life, I look in the mirror.
If you favor self-portraits in art, what is it about them that draws your attention? Can we ever truly know what the artist was seeing in him/herself, as Segal suggests?
If you're an artist, do you create self-portraits? If so, what's the impetus behind making them?