Art curator lauds viz student's innovative self-portrait series

A graduate visualization student’s self-portraits, tributes to iconic masterworks from the art world, have captured the attention and praise of art blogger Michelle H. Harrell, coordinator of teen/college programs for the North Carolina Museum of Art, in Raleigh.

In a [Sept. 1, 2011 blog entry] ( , Harrell, who’s curating “Self, Observed,” a NCMA exhibition of self-portraits by college students, singled out the photos submitted by Emily Kiel, a master of science in visualization student at Texas A&M, as two of her favorite entries.

Kiel, who earned a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from Texas A&M in 2009, uses a unique approach to self-portraiture that combines photography and art history.

“Inspired by Cindy Sherman and Nikki S. Lee,” wrote Harrell, “she recreates imagery from the expansive span of art history through extensive make-up, costumes, and careful placement of the figure in the exact stance of the original work of art.”

Kiel’s submissions to the NCMA exhibition are part of a series of works she created for her thesis research. One pays tribute to pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s painting “Ohh…Alright…” and the other recreates Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”

“My work investigates the stories told through art history translated through the process of photography, Kiel wrote in her artist’s statement for the exhibit. “I delve into various styles of art to better understand a broad spectrum of ideas by choosing paintings that cover a broad range of art history.”

Her work, she said, borders on performance art as she develops a relationship with the audiences that gather at the locations where she shoots and models for her self-portraits. With the audiences, she notes, she tends to act differently that she would if she were working alone. Reacting to the viewers’ reactions is part of her creative process.

“While replicating art is nothing new, there is a strange desire to be the girl in the painting,” said Kiel, “I am drawn to art that I can relate to as well as art that features someone entirely different from myself. After careful dissection and research, I take on each painting as a sort of puzzle to transpose it into a new medium.”

Harrell, an art teacher, said Kiel’s self-portraits can provide a great inspiration for budding art students.

“Expect great things to come from this young artist,” she wrote, “Thousands of works are waiting to be recreated.”

Kiel’s thesis work and other art projects can be viewed on her [website] ( .

NCMA’s [Self, Observed] ( exhibit, including images and artists statements, are posted on the museum’s website.

posted September 6, 2011