Selfieism has done wonders for presenting one’s ideal image to the world with marketing precision—carefully composed and fully edited. It’s that whole persona thing that Jung used to talk about. In The Unmasking, artist Nancy Good presents a different sort of portrait, layered thick with psychology, reviving mask metaphors in literal works designed to address healing and compassion.
On display at R. Cline Arts, her work hauls persona to the forefront. The jarring portraits remind that there’s a beneath-the-surface in a world geared to be all surface.
The digital composites begin with Good’s own nude selfies (taken with an infrared camera in natural light) on which she creates masks using images of her own paintings and photography encasing all but her eyes while revealing the silhouette of her body. The series looks at “how we mask and unmask,” Good says, and the way outward personas hide those things we are afraid or ashamed of. Additionally they hint at the way we may be contained by all-consuming thoughts or subconscious wounds.
Good brings to the work her own background of childhood sexual abuse, adult rape and family mental illness, the type of stuff that launches secrets, lies and other behaviors. It reaches out to others who might be struggling with their own wounds. In presenting the works behind reflective glass, there’s no way for viewers to engage without catching a glimpse of themselves. No mouths on these portraits. The symbolism does all the talking.
Adorned and protected, the subjects are seductive and eerie, trapped by their masks with bodies exposed. Only in “The Prickly Nature of My Own Dichotomy” is there a sense of breakaway: two sets of heads, masked with Joshua Trees and sky but still part of the greater universe, “broken and whole.”