Altered Self-Portraits

Brian McCutcheon, Altered Self-Portraits, 2009-2010. Courtesy of the Artist, with support from Sculpture Space and The Efroymson Family Fund, a CICF Fund.

The difficulty of separating work and play from childhood and adulthood is at the core of a series of nine digitally altered self-portraits that McCutcheon began developing between classes he was teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He titled these photographs with insulting names used teasingly by kids—like Doofus, Frank N Stein, Hammerhead, and Pinhead (2009–2010). In these works McCutcheon manipulates his own likeness so that he appears to be monstrous, ridiculous, and deformed, like one’s reflection is in a funhouse mirror. McCutcheon admits: “It was hard for me to embrace something that seemed artless in some ways but represented the type of play and experimentation that I convey to my students in the classroom. Once I started doing it in earnest, the images became very psychologically disturbing to me and I would see things about myself I did not like or try and highlight characteristics I may be self-conscious about.” The final photographs became useful tools for further exploration of the overlap between art and play.