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Jo O'Brien

Jo O'Brien

Melbourne, Australia

Making choices in self portraiture

This is my homework for the course I am currently doing at Brunswick Street Gallery.

We have to take a self portrait which does not show our face but which does show something of ourselves. This may not be the one I submit, but it has been an interesting exercize and I thought I would share. I often post work here without much of an explanation into the choices I make. I thought it might be nice to make it available so you can see that I do actually put a bit of thought into my work, even if it is not obvious at first glance.

The Easels:
Faded and old. They represent myself as an artist. How of late I am taking fewer and fewer photos and am out of practice. They are scattered at random, which is a lot like my very hectic and chaotic life. Yet they all match, which shows my underlying need to have organisation, even if it is organised chaos. You may notice the empty frame. For me this represents not only my occupation, but it’s emptiness means it acts as a window. A way to see into me. It is a comment on the whole image as well as an element within it.

The Doll:
This is a childhood doll and has my old name written on it (from before I became Jo O’Brien). So it connects to my past and reminds me of a time passed. She is naked, which reflects how I feel as an artist, always confessing through my art. She is torn at both arms from being pulled in a tug-of-war game. Much like how I feel when I have more things requiring my time than I have time for. On a more human level. She represents my desire to one day have children, my “femaleness”, my nurturing side.

The Costume:
It was scavenged from an op shop. Something I absolutely adore doing. And it fits like a second skin, showing my comfort in front of the camera. It’s close colour match to my skin implies nudity which highlights a more general level of comfort with my body, and ability to play a role within my own skin. It’s second hand nature reminds me that a ‘creative artist life’ was never my first choice. In fact, I studied Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Maths Methods in VCE and always had an aptitude for the sciences. Art was an accident.

The Location:
At home in the back yard. Here I feel most relaxed and comfortable. It has been the location of numerous photo shoots and self portraits, so much so that I would feel like I was abondoning this space to take self portraits elsewhere. It also represents for me, my ability to live off my creativity, as my best selling shot was taken here. More generally I enjoy the idea of fences, of what they hold in and out. And of how to break them down. This is a theme I like to play with in a lot of my work- the emotional and psychological barriers we put up around ourselves, often needlessly.

Setting up the shot:
I wanted to appear within the forest of easels and yet comfortable which dictated my pose, leaning gently against the fence. This shows my acceptance of the situation and environment and willingness to participate within it. However I am still holding my doll and not interacting with any other part of the environment. This suggests I still cling to something from my childhood, and have insecurites about the art world and my credibility as an artist.

Your thoughts?

Journal Comments

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