A portrait is a representation of an individual; in the visual arts, a portrait might be a literal depiction of someone’s body or face or a presentation of symbols that suggest aspects of someone’s personality. But how much can a single image reveal about a person’s true self, and how do artistic decisions affect how the self is communicated? Perhaps a portrait is more accurately a starting point from which to develop a more complex understanding of what makes someone who they are.
Explore collection stories—texts, videos, and creative responses from faculty, students, artists, scholars, and curators to works in the Tang collection.
Professor of History Jordana Dym led students in “LA305: Working with Latin American and Latinx Communities” on a volunteer trip to Guatemala, where they documented their experiences. To prepare, students visited the Tang to look at how photographers have documented people and landscapes in Latin America.
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Students compared work by Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Flor Guarduño, and class participation included an exercise where each student used their smart phone to take a photo in the Tang Museum based on a work they reviewed. Together, the class discussed composition, subject, and framing to encourage thoughtful documentation on their trip.
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Associate Professor of Art Janet Sorensen’s “AR201: Painting I” class looked at portraits from the Tang collection that include paint as a medium.
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Students were asked to create self-portraits, and Sorensen held a class discussion comparing and contrasting formal portrait painting to conceptual portraits that explore metaphor or perhaps even conceal identity. Students’ understanding of what defines a “portrait” was broadened by viewing this selection of artwork from the Tang collection.
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