‘Staging the Self’: A new kind of selfie at the National Portrait Gallery

WASHINGTON — There is a certain look and feel associated with portraiture. It is usually solemn and commemorative in nature, with the subject often peering intently toward the audience.

“Staging the Self,” a new exhibit featuring six Latino artists at the National Portrait Gallery, defies these expectations by adding an element of performance to the self-portraits.

Carlee Fernandez, for example, photographs herself posing as a bear or dressed up like her father at 19 years old.

Michael Vasquez paints portraits of his friends, looking tough and flashing gang signs.

Photographer Karen Miranda Rivandeneira revisits her childhood in her work, asking family members to recreate memories and scenarios from when she was a little girl. The photos feature her mother, grandmother and other formative figures from her childhood in the United States and Ecuador.

Taken as a whole, the exhibit functions as a kind of mirror in which the artists explore their identities through memories and experiences. They are self-reflective in nature, and provide a stark contrast to the more traditional work already on display at the museum.

“Staging the Self” explores the timeless question of “what does it mean to be a person living today,” explains museum director Kim Sajet.

“What are those expressions that tie us all together?”

Family is a running theme in the exhibit. In “The Strand That Holds Us Together,” Fernandez photographs her hand next to her father’s. The shapes are shockingly similar, separated only by age and size.

“The artists in this show approach portraiture differently,” says Ta

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