Says Emily: In this series, I explore what we show to the world as women. As a young girl I was given many instructions on how a woman should act. I spent my life in the well-intentioned disguises taught to me by my mother. I concealed much of my introverted personality by making sure I always appeared happy and confident, the way I was taught a woman should always behave. As women, we use many devices to disguise ourselves, whether it be with make up and the dress we know makes us look skinnier, or never being too loud or too outspoken for fear of being labeled “the bitch.” I am a complicated construct of both the rejection and acceptance of society’s definition of femininity. This struggle reveals itself through the intersection of both attractive and repulsive components in my images that reflect my own personal conflict. Hidden behind expected social roles, our inner identity can become lost. Through my work, I explore what happens when our masks become so convincing that we no longer recognize ourselves.
Utilizing self-portraiture, I am constantly experiencing a “hall of mirrors” effect where it is difficult to distinguish between truth and illusion, as I am both subject and maker. I’m confronting the disguises that have become a part of my feminine identity while exposing and scrutinizing my own secrets. By creating the garments and photographing in the studio, I regain a sense of control that was lost. Working alone I experience a powerful reclamation. There is constant tension between my expressed self and the invented self in the pictures. In some views my body is anonymous, a stand in for many women. In others I confront the viewer, the camera, and ultimately myself in an attempt to uncover and assert my inner identity underneath years of impersonations.
Emily Wiethorn (b.1991) is a third year MFA candidate in Studio Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is an Instructor of Record and holds a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. She received her BFA in Photography from Northern Kentucky University. She is the recipient of the Edgren Tuition Fellowship, the Peterson Fellowship, and was awarded the 2017 SPE Student Award for Innovations in Imaging. She was also named as one of nine finalists for the Texas Photographic Society’s National Photography Award in 2017. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. She works primarily in self-portraiture where she explores notions of feminine identity, gender, and self-discovery.