For our fall issue we invite you to consider how you approach the figure and the role it plays in your work. We hope you will think about the idea of portraiture (including self-portraiture) in an expansive manner, beyond a traditional—and literal—conception, considering the ways in which art can capture and convey an individual’s essence, personality, psychology, identity (or lack of!), values, power, status, iconic nature, contributions to society and to yourself, and what these mean to you.

MAJ theme Gorky copy

Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 ¼ in. (152.4 x 127.6 cm), 1926–c. 1936, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Julien Levy for Maro and Natasha Gorky in memory of their father. © The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Here are some questions for you to reflect upon:

  • What kind of possibilities does the idea of portraiture open for you and your work? How do you use it to convey specific meaning? Do you combine it with symbolism, political messages, and personal beliefs?

  • Do you include notions/elements of portraiture in your work? Do you aim at suggesting someone’s presence in your art?

  • What specific stories/events/personal information do you include in your depiction?

  • Do you explore a sitter’s features in all their details, rendering the topography of a face, warts and all? Do you choose to exaggerate certain features of your subject? If yes, which ones and why? Do you, on the other hand, choose to overlook certain features? Do you simplify and abstract your depiction?

  • Do you anchor your figure in a certain time and place, for instance, including elements of setting?

  • What do you aim at conveying about your relationship to the person and how do you hope the viewer will relate to that person/depicted figure?

MAJ Theme Bourgeois Maman copy

Louise Bourgeois, Maman, stainless steel, bronze, marble, 29 ft. 4 3/8 in. x 32 ft. 1 7/8 in. x 38 ft. 5/8 in. (8.95 x 9.80 x 11.60 m), 1999, displayed in front of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (photo: Wikimedia Commons).

MAJ theme3 Man Ray

Man Ray, Le Violon d’Ingres (Ingres’s Violin), gelatin silver print, 11.625 x 8.9375 in. (29.6 x 22.7 cm), 1924, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Deadline: 1 September 2024.

Guidelines for UMVA Members’ Showcase:

We invite MAJ member artists to participate in the Showcase (to become a member: click here).

  • For The Portrait and Beyond issue, submit up to four JPEG or png images (NO TIFF files), approximately 2800 pixels on longest side, resolution 72dpi.
  • Label each image file as follows: your last name_Number of Image_Title (with no spaces in the title). Please DO NOT put whole caption/credit in image file label, see image list/caption format below (if you are submitting for a group put your own last name in first).
  • Include a numbered image list and statement or brief essay (600 words or less) in Word doc. format, NOT a PDF.
  • Image list/caption format: create a list that is numbered to match the number in your image file label that includes the following in this order: Artist’s Name, Title of Work, medium, size (example: 9 x 12 in.), date (optional), photo credit (example: photo: Ansel Adams) if not included we assume it is courtesy of the artist. Example: Unknown Artist, Untitled, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 in., 2000 (photo: Ansel Adams).
  • Label your document file names: Last Name_Title.
  • Please wait until all of your material is compiled to submit.

Put “Portraitin the subject line and submit by email to by the 1 September 2024 deadline. MAJ will limit the “Members’ Showcase” section to UMVA members who have not been published in the past year.

Do not send preformatted visual essays. Our editors will lay out text and images submitted using the guidelines above.

It is the MAJ’s policy to request and then publish image credits. We will not publish images the submitter does not have the right to publish. However, it is to be assumed that any uncredited or unlabeled images are the author’s/submitter’s own images. By submitting to the MAJ, you are acknowledging respect for these policies.

MAJ ttheme Ramon Casas Studio Interior Google Art Project copy

Ramón Casas, Studio Interior, oil on canvas, 28.54 x 36.41 in. (72.5 x 92.5 cm), c. 1883, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona (photo: Wikimedia Commons).


Image at top: Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, as Vertumnus, 55 x 22.83 in. (70 x 58 cm), c. 1590–91, Skokloster Castle, Sweden (photo: Wikimedia Commons).