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Truth or Dare?

In living with others we become aware that our truths are not necessarily shared by others, and that we are not only the intimate self we know so well but the strangers that others think we are. Their views of us are as valid as our own, in that they affect us, and--upholding our belief in the worth of the individual--we cannot dismiss their interpretations as incorrect.

Ellen Dissanayake, What Is Art For?, 1988

People Who Are Like People

Every person is like all other people, like some other people, like no other person.

Clyde Kluckhohn, Personality in Nature, Society and Culture, 1948

What's in a Face?

If you take the great late self-portraits of Rembrandt, you will find that the whole contour of the face changes time after time: it's a totally different face, although it has what is called a look of Rembrandt, and by this difference it involves you in different areas of feeling.

Francis Bacon, 1975

Identity Quiz

Question: How do we know who we are?

Answer: Society tells us. "Society," first in the form of family and other caretakers. Later, we learn our "place" increasingly via messages from institution mechanisms--municipal governments that replace some street lamps far more readily than others, schools that teach us Columbus "discovered" America, media wizards who assign non-Western features to creatures from outer space...

Question: If society tells us lies, how can we know who we are?

Answer: Maybe the only thing to know is that we need to keep on searching ...

"Searching can sound tedious to people with too little time of their own, too much work, too many kids, never enough money. It can sound like a convenient cop-out if you see a city crumbling before your eyes, frozen corpses on sidewalk steam vents. I don't want an identity I've got to search for," you scream.

"I need one for immediate use!"

--Judith Wilson, Autobiography: In Her Own Image

What Are the Real Issues Here?

In a cooperative effort to improve town-gown relations, the local business community in a small college town agreed to sponsor a month-long exhibition of artworks created by a fine-art faculty from the university. Bank lobbies and store-front windows along Main Street were turned into exhibition spaces. Alter Ego, a sculpture of a male figure by fine-arts professor Greta Gripp was displayed in a bank lobby just inside the door. The cast-bronze figure was without head and arms, but everything else was in place and anatomically correct. A few working days after the opening, the bank manager called Professor Gripp at the university and asked her to remove the piece. Customers, he told her, were complaining about having to look at it. Greta refused to move her sculpture. She questioned why the complaints seemed to be directed toward the male figure, while no one seemed to object to her other sculpture, Ego, an anatomically correct female figure without head and arms at the other entrance to the bank lobby. With that, both figures ended up in the bank manager's office. He even had them covered with a black cloth.

Loosely based on a case description in Artistic Freedom under Attack, 1994
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Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2000
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