Mirrors are useful, that much is certain. Being able to see what we look like comes in handy, as we all like to look our best.
Perhaps this is why we have so many pieces of artwork devoted to the mirror, so as to commemorate this simple, yet treasured object.
Take, for example, Michael Baldwin’s Untitled Painting (1965). The mirror is the most important part of this piece. In fact, it’s the only part, given how a mirror takes up the entire canvas. Why would Baldwin seek to show the viewer their reflection? Maybe to demonstrate that the potential for true artistic greatness exists in all of us.
Another prominent example of the mirror’s artistic treatment is the lengthy titled Dali seen from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected by Six Real Mirrors (1972-73) by the very man referred to in the title, Salvador Dali. The specific title details exactly what is going on in the painting: Dali is painting a woman, while both are reflected in a mirror. The fact that Dali himself, as the painter, manages to make it into his own painting is interesting. While we are admiring a piece of work, we would do well to remember the genius who provided us with it.
We also have Stranger in the Mirror (date unknown) by Chris Peters. This is a slightly more macabre piece than the others, as the figure being reflected in the mirror is a skeleton. If it’s any consolation, he (or she) seems to be enjoying his (or her) reflection. Perhaps this serves as a warning to the viewer not to become so vain as to let our life slip away because we are so transfixed on our own appearance- remember what happened to Narcissus in the Greek myth, after all.
Mirrors will always show us what we look like. But art will always show us so much more. After all, George Bernard Shaw observed that “you use a glass mirror to see your face; you use a work of art to see your soul”.
– Luke Mayo, Correspondent (Art)