The naming of one's own reality is crucial because cultural self-representation is inseparable from political self-determination.>

--Douglas Kahn and Diane Neumaier, Cultures in Contention

Visual artists are conscious, and unconscious, agents of mass dreams, allowing forbidden or forgotten images to surface, reinforcing aspects of identity that provide pride and self-esteem, countering the malignant imprint of socially imposed inferiority.

Lucy Lippard

We all need opportunities for expressing who we are as human beings.

Who am I? Where did I come from? What do I believe in? Where am I going in my life? Such highly personal questions are part of being human. They go to the core of establishing a unique, personal identity--and understanding how one fits into the fabric of society. Individuals may pose these questions differently or at different points in their lives. Thoughtful people in every culture, in every historical epoch, have asked just such questions of themselves. We all know people who have constructed clear personal identities, established cultural roots, engaged a system of beliefs, or charted a course for a productive life. Such individuals can be useful models for understanding--and challenging--how we view ourselves. By comparing our own "picture of ourselves" with others, we can gain a greater understanding of ourselves.

In many cultures, artists express who they are, where they come from, and where they are going through their artworks. The act of creating a painting, sculpture, video tape, or other work can be helpful in determining and shaping who we are as individuals or as a member of society.

Inquiry Questions

1) How do you identify yourself? How does society at large identify you?

2) How do other societies or cultures or groups identify their members?

3) What graphic elements or marks can artists use to express their own identity in a work of art?

4) How can you use, replicate, combine, or transform these elements in your own artwork?


1. Identity Sheet (viz. 2D Studio Fundamentals, UNIT III: Unity)

2. Signature Style (2D Studio Fundamentals, UNIT II: Marks and Lines)

3. Grafitti (2D Studio Fundamentals, UNIT II: Marks and Lines)

4. Personal Palette (COLOR Studio Fundamentals, UNIT I: Subjective Color)

5. Altered Ego (3D Studio Fundamentals, UNITs II: Relief; and IV: Form and Mass)

6. Destination Hat (3D Studio Fundamentals, UNIT IV: Form and Mass)


Laurie Anderson, Robert Arneson, William Blake, Chris Burden, Keith Haring, Lynn Hirschman, Ray Langenbach, Linda Montano, Michelangelo, Adrian Piper. Jackson Pollock, Charles Ray, Rembrandt, Andy Warhol


1. Robert Arneson. summary.

2. Adrian Piper. New York Times profile, Dec. 24, 1999.

3. Female Identities. Hosted by the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson.

4. ASU-YWCA Internet Art Workshop. Collaboration bewteen ASU MFA candidates and "Haven House" women.