The Real You

Robin Arnitz, 6.8.18, Ink & Acrylic on Paper, Robin Artnitz

Peggy Murphy

How real is the “real you” and where does the locus of this idea reside? Are you a name, a face, a body, a brain, a type, a brand? Identity is a curious thing. In Robin Arnitz’s current show at Shift she explores the slippery phenomena of identity by using images of herself to illustrate the way we perceive and characterize identity.

In her previous show at Shift, Arnitz removed the body/identity from the image and emphasized the clothes, hair and the surroundings. Although she continues this somewhat, the barely dressed faceless figure itself seems to carry the weight of her questioning.

In “New Work” the images are spare and creamy. The figure continues to be faceless or covered and the background has nearly disappeared. The said signifiers (clothes, hair, makeup) have been singled out and emphasized with dense brushwork. In many cases the faceless figures are clad in bra and panties – the last trappings of feminine cultural identity before the body is truly naked. As the accouterments of cultural identity fall away it seems as if the body itself, the pose and movement, the kiss, the embrace, the stretching towards a window, may be in itself a sort of cultural signifier

A series of figures with swirly expressive backgrounds are particularly interesting for their lack of obvious identity signifiers beyond hair and lingerie. In viewing these it is hard not to be reminded of how the body communicates in sly and subtle ways and how this often exposes a certain truth. On the other hand, a good dancer can convey assumed emotions and identities and trick us into make believe just as easily. One wonders if there is an authentic way of holding the body, or rather, how frequently we strike a pose of sorts borrowed from a memory or an idea. That tilt of chin or angle of foot, does it betray us? Or is it as much a mask as that covered face?