Mutter, Ich bin dumm! Evelyn Taocheng Wang | Hendrik Folkerts

I am looking at a painting by the Chicago-based Surrealist artist Gertrude Abercrombie, Self-Portrait of My Sister, created in 1941. The woman has sharp features, an elongated neck, and her gaze projects onto an unknown horizon beyond the picture frame. The radiant blue of her eyes echoes the green and blue of her dress, collar, and hat, the latter adorned with dark purple grapes and a corkscrew. Her lips are pressed, giving her face a stern, austere expression, in subtle contrast with the playful gesture of her right hand embracing her left wrist. Tellingly, Abercrombie was an only child. The artist used self-portraiture to create an alter ego, an imaginary sister—was she smarter, prettier, meaner, or more real somehow? In her records, she would refer to this painting as “Portrait of the Artist as Ideal,” stating: “It’s always myself that I paint, but not actually, because I don’t look that good or cute.” The painting reminds me of Evelyn Taocheng Wang, and all the other possible Evelyns envisioned by Wang.

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