Reflective Identity: A Study of Perception

Article excerpt

Have you ever listened to your voice on tape and said, "Is this how I really sound?" As art teachers, we think in a visual world, so I propose this question, "Does the image that I have of myself match the image that others see of me?" This statement set this lesson in motion. I decided to create a more innovative approach to portraiture, not how we see ourselves, but how others see us.

Seeing through Other Eyes

Throughout history, artists have strived to leave their mark on the world. One of the core human desires is to be remembered, to shout to the world "Look I was here, remember me!" Do artists leave the right impression? Do they leave a representation of whom they truly were or do they leave a composite of how their lives were viewed by others? I have posed this question to my students in this lesson. How do you see yourself and how does that correlate to how others see you? The core objective of this project is for students to explore what identity truly is, and to incorporate the many meanings of reflection to compose a unique self-portrait.

It is my goal as an art educator to introduce the essential question to myself: What do I want my students to gain from this exploration of portraiture? I realized that many of my students had assumptions of how they thought others saw them. This is when I decided to look at the idea of "reflective identity" or how others perceive us.

Thinking in Motion

I begin every project by asking prompting questions and presenting basic information such as a definition. It is important to remember that the idea will make or break the final product. Allowing time for brainstorming now will create a dialog with your students while helping them talk to their peers. Encourage students to look beyond traditional concepts of reflection.

Re.flec.tive adj 1: Relating to, produced by, or resulting from reflection (syn: brooding, broody, contemplative, meditative, musing, pensive, ruminative. 2: capable of physically reflecting light or sound; "a reflective surface." 3: devoted to matters of the mind; "the reflective type."

I.den.ti.ty: 1: The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group. 2: The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity; individuality. 3: the individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognized by or known.


Once students identify what reflective identity is, each should brain-storm with the following prompts:

* How do I define myself?

* What are the most important aspects of my life?

* Am I defined by more physical or emotional characteristics? Who defines me?

* How does each of these people or groups see me?

* Without physical objects or surroundings, would I still be the same?


* List ten physically reflective surfaces.

* Look past actual reflective surfaces, what else in your environment reflects you?

* Of whom are you a reflection?

* Who in your life is a reflection of you?

* How do your actions reflect who you are? …