The artist cross-dresses.

by Self-Portrait of the Artist

Mapplethorpe, Robert 1980

It was roughly in the same years that Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol shot their self-portraits in cross-dressing.

In his 1980-82 series, Warhol chose an extreme make-up (the white foundation almost clownish) and different wigs of unnaturalistic colours, plus an ironic diva expression — but he downplayed the “artistic” conception by shooting the pictures on a prosaic Polaroid (which thirty years later we would all unconsciously imitate on Instagram).

On the other hand, Mapplethorpe (1980) went for a natural hair style and a more sober make-up — his pose at once more artistically self-conscious and less affected.

Warhol, Andy

(Both also chose androgynous elements — contrasting male and female accessories such as the tie vs the wig in Warhol and the male shirt vs the fur in Mapplethorpe.)

Warhol, Andy 1980-82?

My preference (for all it matters) instinctively goes to Mapplethorpe’s 1980 self-portrait below. The role of make-up is more baffling, not as self-consciously parodying as Andy Warhol’s and not quite advocating for the persuasiveness of the cross-dressing. Staring straight at the camera and bare-chested, the artist is more vulnerable and exposed than Warhol would ever find it in him to be.

Mapplethorpe 93.4288Self Portrait2/19/2004photo by DH

(This post was conceived when I chanced upon this recent article from The Syncretic Aesthetic — which I recommend and say Thank You to.)

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