Monday, March 24, 2014


Da Vinci's Lady with Ermine
The culture of selfies is here, but didn't just happen overnight. People have been creating their self-portraits for centuries to immortalize themselves and to fulfill a desire for importance simply out of vanity. Before photography appeared on the mass market in mid XIX century, the portraits were commissioned by wealthy merchants and aristocracy who could afford them. Portraits came in all sizes and shapes with all kinds of props, arrangements, backgrounds, pets, etc. These were painted by artists to show sitter's beauty,  character, position in society or to commemorate their lives.

If you are interested in the history of self- portrait, pick up a book by James Hall titled "Self-portrait: A cultural history".

Goya's Portrait of Don Manuel Osorio de Manrique Zuniga
If the selfie is a portrait of yourself made by yourself in any medium, then I guess Bak, the chief sculptor of Akhenanten was the first one to memorialize himself in 1365 BCE.

Bak and his wife
He was followed by some Greeks… skipping a few centuries and we get to Marcia. She was one of the first people who actually created her own selfie. She is looking at the mirror while painting her own image, sort of what we do today when we take a photo in a bathroom with a smartphone...

As we hop throughout the art history, I must mention Albrecht Durer who was renowned for his "psychologically" deep self-portraits, Rembrandt who painted over 90 self-portraits, Van Gogh who also indulged in self-portraiture (even with cut off ear...) and Norman Rockwell who painted a TRIPLE self-portrait.

A Triple Self-Portrait by Norman Rockwell
If a selfie is a PHOTO portrait of yourself taken by yourself then Robert Cornelius is the first person who took his own selfie in 1839 and Mr. Nadar is a creator of a spinning selfie….
Today, selfies are a way to present yourself to the world. Facebook pages are infested with selfies and I'm as guilty as a person next to me. We take photos of ourselves everywhere... I mean everywhere, without any regard for the place or event, like a funeral...
President Obama at Mandela's funeral
or concentration camps...

Joh Quirky selfie at gas chamber in Auschwitz 
or in space (which is a good idea but with your sun visor up would be better...)

I also find it hilarious that famous historical photos can be turned into selfies. An ad agency Lowe Cape Town produced the series of such photos for a campaign for The Cape Times, South African newspaper. By changing them into selfies, they are incorporated into our contemporary culture. Yet, I suspect that some young ding-dong will assume these photos are real...

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square in New York City, on August 14, 1945.
Kate and Will

As I wrote before, I'm guilty of selfie indulgence as well, but for me, as an artist and art teacher, the most highly valued self-portrait is the one with a famous artwork. The moment of standing next to a famous artwork has to be memorialized because of its significance in art history and recognition of the greatness of the artwork or the artist. As if being next to it I was able to touch the divine and hope that some of its genius would rub off on me… Here are a FEW selected selfies with famous artworks:
Selfie with Da Vinci's Mona Lisa

Selfie with David's Oath of the Horatii

Selfie with Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon by Enguerrand Quarton

Selfie with Picasso's Woman in Hat and Fur Collar

Selfie with Da Vinci's Female Portrait

Selfie with Van Gogh's self-portrait

Selfie with Winged Victory of Samothrace 

Selfie with Michelangelo's David -
bleached out in the background :(

Selfie with Giotto's "The Ognissanti Madonna"
Selfie with Botticelli's Birth of Venus
Does a photo with a famous artwork transform you?
The answer is "yes" for me. It takes me over, it possesses me even when it is me who wants to possess it. It stays with me for a long time, it influences my life and my art creation, it becomes me…

I found these Real Life Models by Flora Borsi and in a way they exemplify what happens to a person next to a famous artwork even though it wasn't the intent of the Ms. Borsi … She meant to take famous artworks and show what the people would look like if they were real people as you see in below black and white photo of the models of Grant Wood's "American Gothic".

courtesy of Flora Borsi website 

courtesy of Flora Borsi website
Courtesy of Flora Borsi website 

Courtesy of Flora Borsi website
For me as an artist I identify with portraits, and when it comes to the famous portraits… I want to become them. Yasumasa Morikura's portraits exemplify such a desire…. as I did in my own creation of Judith and Holofernus after Cranach.

Yasumasa Morimura "An inner dialog with Frida Kahlo"

Yasumasa Morimura "A daughter of art history"

"Contemporary Judith and Holofernus"
after Cranach by Dorota Quiroz
An on the final note… if art could take a picture of itself… would it?

Selfie of an artwork… haha

Friday, March 21, 2014


Front Cover of "Oxymoron" Book by Dorota Quiroz ©

Don't you just love oxymorons? It's like eating salty ice-cream and smelling cinnamon covered rotting fish… Something is not right…
I handmade a small book of Oxymorons in 2005 to celebrate the delight of contradictory terms using collaged images from magazines and the text from Oxymoron List website. Here are the pages from my book...
Which oxymoron is your favorite?

Back cover of "Oxymoron" by Dorota Quiroz ©

Page 1 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 2 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 3 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 4 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 5 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 6 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 7 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 8 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 9 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©
Page 10 of Oxymoron by Dorota Quiroz ©

(All images © Copyright 2014 Dorota Quiroz)

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Pubblico Palace with Tower of Mangia

Spent there less than 6 hours and wished to stay at least 3 months. The medieval city is loaded with history, but most delightful thing I would like to share with you today is its architectural features, the Museum of Torture and the Palio Festival.
During our independent exploration on August day in 2009, we rolled into Siena in search of sights. No itinerary, guidebooks or tours… we simply parked our car and decided to walk and follow the signs to the center of the city. Here are some beautiful architectural features on the way to the main square.
(All images and video © Copyright 2014 Dorota Quiroz)

Piazza Del Campo
This oval-shaped large open space surrounded by the wall of buildings on its edge is the center of the city. It is tilted towards the center where all "slices of pie" meet. It was a gathering place for all the districts. I wish I climbed the Tower of Mangia to take some shots from the top!

Close up of Pubblico Palace by Dorota Quiroz

Piazza Salimbeni

Piazza del Campo 

Piazza del Campo with Gaia Fountain

Piazza del Campo perfect for afternoon nap

Detail of Gaia Fountain at Piazza del Campo

Under the viewing stairs in Piazza del Campo
Gargoyles on Pubblico Palace 

One of the statues in Siena
(Romus and Romulus with She-Wolf)

Il Duomo of Siena

Close up of the facade of the Cathedral in Siena
Close up of Cathedral in Siena
Beautiful details of Cathedral in Siena
Detail from Siena Cathedral
Gate doors to the Cathedral in Siena
Detail of the upper left panel of main door to the Cathedral in Siena
Lion - Detail of Siena Cathedral
Main alter of Il Duomo in Siena
Close up of the main alter with the flags of Contrada
One of the chapels in Siena Cathedral with large manuscripts
The ceiling of Siena Cathedral
One of the wall in the Siena Cathedral covered with pledges and votive medallions 

During our lunch at one of the cafes off the main square we learned from our waiter about the Torture Museum (Museo della Tortura) … Hmmm, I tortured my husband by dragging him all over Italy, why not learn more about how else other people were tortured… I tell you, my friends, people are very creative when it comes to causing pain for a purpose of conversion, punishment or pure sadistic pleasure. You think water boarding is bad? You have no idea...Here are some visuals.

And my absolutely favorite torture gadget for school (below)...

Siena is famous for its race of horses. Once a year, from July through August in the Piazza del Campo there is a festival of Palio that celebrates different Contradas and ends with a horse race around the Piazza. Each horse represents a different district of the city called "Contrada" established long ago (as early as VI century) with its colors, banners and neighborhoods. Originally there were about 60 of them back now there are 17: Eagle, Snail, Wave, Panther, Forest, Tortoise, Owl, Unicorn, Shell, Tower, Ram, Caterpillar, Dragon, Giraffe, Porcupine, She-Wolf, Goose. Here are some of their banners:

The flags of Contrada at Pubblico Palace in Siena

Contradas in Siena
Here comes the horse!

Bringing in the race horse

Onda Contrada Horse

On our way back we experienced a great tradition. The horse was being brought to the city with its supporters of Contrada… Enjoy the video:

I would love to rent an apartment here for a few months, just to walk the streets and explore Tuscan landscape… soon my friends, soon….

Streets of Siena

(All images and video © Copyright 2014 Dorota Quiroz)