Monday, February 20, 2012

Bio-Art: Self.

Making one's self-portrait is usually a necessity in any visual art course. It is often easier said than done, especially for people who have a little bit of self-loathing. The way one draws one's self-portrait can sometimes be used to gauge one's skill as an artist. If, however, one did a portrait like Marc Quinn's Self, one might get expelled for health code violations.

Why? Quinn did his self portrait out of 4.5 liters of his own blood.

Marc Quinn is a Young British Artist (yes, that's a group) at 35. Aside from Self, he has also done a sculpture of a pregnant Alison Lapper, which is on display in Trafalgar Square. He loves working with unorthodox materials, including ice, glass, marble, lead, and, of course, blood.

Blood has a special quality to it. For one thing, unlike other bodily fluids like sweat and urine, blood is generally meant to stay inside the body. Blood samples can be used to determine any number of bodily ailments. "Bloodshed" can be used as a synonym for conflict.  In a mystical sense, blood is almost synonymous with life force.  Of course, red is the color that the human eye pays the most attention to, so it makes for a very catching art piece.

Self is a unique piece because of its medium alone. It was made by filling a cast of Marc's head with blood, then freezing it. Since Marc's head is, in fact, made out of chilled blood, it has to be kept cold while on display. One version of Self was bought by Charles Saatchi; it was later given to a U.S. collector for 1.5 million British pounds, even though it had supposedly melted. The 2006 version of Self is currently in the National Portrait Gallery of London, making everybody else look lame for using paint and silver as their media.

The blood for Self is taken from Marc over a period of five months. Just like many artists who update their self-portraits, Quinn repeats Self every five years. He updates it in accordance to his own physical appearance, of course. That is a hardcore self-portrait if we have ever seen one.

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