Art and Identity
The connection between art and identity has existed since medieval times. This is because art has for centuries acted a mirror of identity. From prehistoric times, human used art to give a picture on their economic, cultural and social aspects of prehistoric forms of lives. In fact, it is argued that without the art, the understanding of man’s past would have been not easy. Critical pointers towards the forms of life led by early man have been availed by the availability of their art works. The role of art as an identity has continued to the modern times when art has been used to reflect all types of issues that encompass our society.
According to Holt (2008), “Art is a mirror image of identity of individual or society because it is a reflection of what we feel, think, practice, ritual, believe, behave and the Character.” It is also a depiction of how our ideologies are intertwined by our feeling within the society, our relationship with others and our thoughts and fears in regards to our future. “The paintings and sculptures of Dracula of Romania and David of Israel clearly give indication to us as what personality they were and the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Mayan arts reveal what they were and how they lived” (MacClancy, 1997).
The ritual, dresses, paintings too reflect religion and tradition of the society. Identity is defined as “character, feelings, intelligence, and behavior etc; of the individual becomes personality” (Eastmond & Zeitler, 2000). it is affected by Tradition, rituals, ideology, practices etc; of the society, gives its significance by is mirrored largely by a number of factors. It is through this significance that we acquire identity and differentiates through proper identification the difference between an individual and existence in society. Coleman (2005) intones that “identity varies from society to society and individual to individual as variation of systems or personality.” It is these differences within our identities that art perfectly captures and defines within the context of different backgrounds.
Art on the other hand is defined as “form of paintings, drawings, crafts, living, style of writings, songs, dance, speech, poetry, humor and etc; these all symbolize the personality and culture so is an instrument to identify.” The art work has the capacity to leave differences within our identities that our visual capacities captures and elicits different feelings. An artist therefore leaves his own feelings on the artwork by the application of personal thoughts on the projects to develop a feeling of inspiration and effectively differentiate two scenarios.
A number of techniques have been used by artists to define own unique identities. One of the strategies that has been widely adopted in the achievement of this objective in artwork is the portraiture “Portraiture refers to a Photoshop or light room and aperture that make it simple to achieve excellence in portrait retouching while identity encompasses the unique blend of character, gender, race, sexual orientation and values that defines and distinguishes each person from another” (Mbatha, 1994). Such techniques have effectively been used by artists to express feelings, desires, behavior and character.
One effective method that art has been exploited in the presentation and explicit demonstration of our identity is the within religion. The diverse world of human existence is composed of a variety of religions that best depicts our identities. According to Moon (2001), Every religion and regional society has own methods of living styles in accordance to own customs and traditions we see them in Africa, Asia, Europe, America, Christian, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhism. Each has different habits, dresses, cultural rites, languages etc; these signify their own identity when reflected by way of exercising is an Art.
It has been projected that all almost all aspects of life are mirrored in art. This link between art and identity has been echoed by Eastmond and Zeitler (2000) in stating it could be argued that all art objects concern themselves ultimately with identity, either explicitly or implicitly. The same could be said about collections of art, whether institutional or personal, and the critical apparatus that envelops the production and presentation of art. All the collections available in the museum of a country contribute powerfully to the demonstration of a country’s identity.
The artistic expression as presented by Sally man in her artwork -Candy Cigarette is a powerful artistic work that depicts primary and playful aspects of human behavior. According to Colberg (2007) “Candy Cigarette is a striking example of Mann’s distinctive combination of careful planning and serendipity in which Mann’s daughter Jessie suspends her activity and gracefully balances a candy cigarette in her hand, the innocent miniature of a blonde and gangling twenty-something beauty.” The careful application of printing style that lends both dramatic and brooding mood in this fine detail captures the identity of human behavior through playful acts in the formative years.
The controversies that have dogged Mann’s portraits are based on the application of nude pictures in representation of various social aspects of the society. The nude pictures are for her family members. In the candy cigarette, a young girl is striking a pose that symbolizes the playful human behavior of imitation. Whereas the cigarette is fake, the title of the portraiture creates an imagination of sophistication and class. The impact of the photo however depends largely on how the viewer sees it. Colberg (2007) has analytically argued along this line by stating that “regardless of how much a photographer tries to control it, ultimately there is some part left where the viewer brings in his or her personality and history and whatever else there is that gets active when looking at photos.”
Whereas the photo has more than three people in it, most people rarely notice the two other personalities presented in the portraiture and the overall impact they build in the artwork. This is a complicated portraiture that with a lot of dynamicity going on between the three individuals in the portraiture. This combination is not just set up, it part plays its role in the dynamicity of the whole work. The depiction of what exactly the young girl at the centre tries to bring out is what the centrality of the art tries to achieve. Another aspect of this work that brings attention to the viewer is the application of a large camera to capture as much details as possible. What then is the reason behind this when smoking among children is a taboo? Mann uses controversy and a mix of complex message to portray hidden massages.
The work of Tracey Emin in “Everyone I have ever slept with” is a powerful artwork that presents social aspects of the society from personal perspective. Whereas many critics have argued that the artwork is a demonstration of shameless portrayal of her sexual conquests, the work mirrors human identity from the perspective of the first person. Tracey has expressed intimate moments in this work through the demonstration of emotional and personal experiences. According to Labedzki (2009) “in short, “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995” or “The Tent” displayed intimacy and love in its various forms in that the viewer was always compelled to think about the people, they have slept with, creating a sense of very personal understanding with the loved ones.” The use of the tent within this work is a depiction of love, intimacy and affection at its best.
The similarity between Mann’s works and Emin’s work on Candy Cigarette and Everyone I have ever slept with is that the two artists have mirrored the identity of human characters and social aspects of human beings through different perspectives. Mann’s Candy Cigarette uses young girls in her work to portray a dynamic society where simple actions represent the identities of the larger society while Emin’s Everyone I Have Ever Slept uses adults to mirror the social human aspects of love, affection and intimacy from a personal perspective. In addition to the above, the two artworks resemble each other on the emotional impacts they separately have on the viewer. Whereas it can be argued that this primarily depends on the feelings of the viewer, the ability to achieve high levels of impacts on the viewer is shared by both artworks.
The differences between the two artworks are represented by the personalities of the artists. Whereas Mann has expressed her themes through complex pictures that do not demonstrate complete deviation from the norm, Emin on other hand is an “’Expressionist’ in nature, where she would deviate from the reality and would experiment with different materials to create installations that were and are both, unique and intriguing” (Labedzki, 2009). In addition to the above, Emin has presented a personal life experience by Everyone I Have Ever Slept while Mann has mirrored the social aspects of the larger society in her work. In conclusion, were as both artworks elicit controversy within the entire society especially on the methods used to send their strong messages, there is abidance in the fact that they are both powerful woks that both achieve their objectives through different means.