Posing with pulla – can self-portraits shed a light on our relationship with food?

Pulla is a traditional Finnish pastry similar to the world-famous cinnamon roll. In her self-portrait Symbioosi (2009) Finnish artist Iiu Susiraja (1975–) poses with pulla in a way reminiscent of the icons of Virgin Mary. In my previous post I wrote about art and its ability to offer perspective. Now I’d like to see what Susiraja’s self-portrait can show us about our relationship with our bodies and food.

First, let me introduce you to Susiraja. She’s a photographer known for her painfully honest and humorous self-portraits in which she often poses with food items. [1] What makes her self-portraits especially poignant is that she is overweight. In an interview with Kodin Kuvalehti-magazine (2014), she describes herself as “thick and happy” while recalling past shame about her weight and later overcoming it by becoming “openly fat” through her art.

Continue reading

Why do artists paint (gross) self-portraits?

You know the feeling. Accidentally flicking on the front-facing camera on your phone, and coming face to face with the horror: a double-chin and squinting eyes. So why would anyone deliberately waste time and energy to paint themselves looking, well – gross? There’s a reason this is an important question, and it’s not just about the looks.

I’ve painted self-portraits because I wanted to study the light and shadow on a face – any face – and mine was the easiest to study. I’ve painted self-portraits of myself when going through difficult stuff in my life. Technical study, examination of the outer and inner self – similar motives for painting self-portraits can be identified throughout their history.

Continue reading