By: Alyssa Laverda, Associate Director, Seraphin Gallery
Erin Murdock spawns threads of provocation through her piece Self-Portrait, which is currently on view at Seraphin Gallery as part of the Third Annual Emerging Talent exhibition. Murdock, a glass artist who recently graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, created this piece last year by undertaking the sophisticated and temperamental process of casting glass.
An open box of sealed glass panes forms an aqueous tank, where a thick cast glass image of the artist's face has sunk to the bottom, barely covered by a three inch pool of water. Life size, the face is framed by the 9" x 9" x 9" cube. As the top remains open, water slowly evaporates- suggesting the impermanence of nature, the fleeting moments of life, and the transparent transmutation of liquid to breath, juxtaposed by an expression that never ages. Light permeates through the still water and is refracted in the curved form below as the figure appears tranquil but is trapped in the vitrine, a perpetual reflection.
The piece yearns for the viewer to take posture, peering directly over the work and to return the gaze. In this position, it is revealed that as the viewer should see their own visage, they instead see through a faint form that has been encased in their own shadow. Processes of introspection rush to thought, opening a corridor to questions of identity, of self worth, and self image. As the glass is the artist's own face, Murdock seems to present and propose these cognitions- while at the same time silently querying the viewer with elements of approval, disapproval, trust, and vanity.
From this point, the piece alludes to the mythological narrative of Narcissus. The Greek allegory refers to a man who was admired for his entrancing features, and beholden with his reflection. Unable to take his eyes away from his image, he faded away until death ensued, other versions relay that when he realized that this love could not be obtained he committed suicide. The Roman interpretation chronicles that he was punished to this fate by the Gods for rejecting the beautiful nymph Echo. He is forever staring into his reflection on the River Styx in the Underworld. There is a flower that grows by lakes and rivers, which carries his namesake, and illustration of the tale of Narcissus has permeated art history, having been depicted by artists such as Caravaggio, Dali, John William Waterhouse, and contemporary 20th century artist, Yayoi Kusama.