Samantha Novak: Self Portraits

Artist Statement

My project, simply titled “Self Portraits” communicates my personal experiences with body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is a disorder characterized by severe anxiety, disgust, or shame regarding one’s physical appearance or self- perceived image.
I’ve struggled with body dysmorphia since I was a young teenager, however, in my early 20’s the disorder has become even more overwhelming. On particularly difficult days, even the thought of being in public, showing my face to strangers, seems impossible.
The choice to take self-portraits was challenging to make. In many ways, portraiture is evidence —evidence of existence, of appearance, of flaws. The thought of there being evidence of the body or face I dislike so viscously, only amplifies my anxiety.
As a result, the voluntary but difficult decision to step in front of the camera speaks to hardships that body dysmorphia makes out of simple acts, such as being in public or being in a photograph.
Further, when this work is displayed for viewers to witness, the act of being in public and being observed, a notion that body dysmorphia makes unbearable, is forced and unavoidable.
Through all of this, however, irony is present. Even with the choice to be the subject of my own work, the terms were highly negotiated, the comprised images being portraits where I was unable to be seen. No evidence is present.

About the Project

  • Title of Work: Self Portraits
  • Medium: Four self-portraits, printed on archival inkjet paper, printed at 16 x 22 in (this number including 2 inch borders on each side)
  • Student's Name: Samantha Novak
  • Major: Journalism (Strategic Communication)
  • Anticipated Graduation Date: May 2023
  • Hometown: Mechanicsville, VA, United States
  • Student's Mentor: Angela Shaffer
  • Mentor's Department: School of Visual Studies