The SVA Picture Collection’s mirrors folder only has around 40 images, but the diversity of images -- ranging from the 1930s to the 2000s -- allows for a very fruitful peruse. Mirrors occupy an important place within, in particular, Western fairytales, as well as the cinematic tradition. Fairytales and other fantasy fiction will often feature magical mirrors (think: Snow White, Harry Potter) that serve as points of (visual) access to other worlds or enchanted sources of knowledge. In the Greek myth, Narcissus perishes after an encounter with his reflection leads him to fall in love with it. In films, depending on the genre’s conventions, mirrors serve as signifiers for vanity or distortion, references to doubling, and surfaces upon which recognition and misrecognition are enacted. In horror films, characters often face the most monstrous aspects of themselves (and the plotline) in the mirror. In romantic comedies, characters give themselves pep talks in their bathroom mirrors. In dramas, characters clutch the sides of their sink and peer at themselves in some peculiar and desperate attempt at self-commiseration. The mirrors folder offers several visual insights into the ways in which humans interact with - and grapple with, and mythologize - their own reflected image.
Feb 23 2018