the invisible exhibitionist

the invisible exhibitionist
a self-portrait series
by emje mccarty

when & where: this art exhibit of ~70 self-portraits in ink by emje mccarty is on display in the commons cafe dining room and will have an online opening in some weeks’ time. check back here later to see the entire exhibit or come to the commons now any wednesday or saturday from 3:00 to 6:00 pm to view in person, read her journals and meet the artist.

look at me
look at me
i want
so badly
for you to see
every beat
of my
damaged heart

every spark
of my


rabid mind

i want

to pull you



i need

to push you


because if you

see me


see me


i will disappear.

between the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2019, i inked close to 500 self-portraits. most of them were in my art journals. i would ink sometimes three self-portraits a day, depending on how much i needed the outlet. i would often focus on parts of me that i felt self-conscious about, exaggerating these features…and feeling as if i were cheating when i would accidentally ink myself “pretty.” maybe it’s obvious that i rarely looked in the mirror–instead drawing me the way i look in my head.

my process was to write down, in free verse usually, my feelings. my observations. my anxiety. my depression. my passion. my anger. my angst & sorrow.
next i would draw a self-portrait. sometimes the portrait had something to do with what i had written. sometimes the portrait reflected how i felt when i did the portrait which wasn’t always the same as i felt when i wrote the words. sometimes my inkings were experimental or a practice of technique. sometimes they were in comic form while sometimes i tried to mimic “serious” art. sometimes they were tributes to other artists & works of art. sometimes i would borrow the style of another artist. sometimes i would straight-up steal their work. doing so many self-portraits, i had to become creative with my sources & would borrow from stories, novels, & mythologies to find enough fodder for so many portraits.
the themes of my portraits touch on my demons, use animals to reflect emotion & conflict, and play with storylines for future projects.

the pages were sometimes named for the free verse; sometimes they were named for the image used to illustrate the verse.

by the end of my self-portrait period, i had faced a lot of my demons & healed many injuries to my soul. i feel as if this project significantly changed my life & the way i view myself. i feel i grew from it. survived myself because of it. and learned so much about myself as an artist, a mother, and a person. as i created it, i shared every page of my journey on my website, my hope being that reading what i was going through would help someone else feel not so alone.

these inkings here are all re-creations of pages from my journal (mostly) without the verse. i work in ink on watercolor paper (some experimentation with canvas). i find that ink is not as forgiving as watercolor is & appreciate that about it. my mistakes become part of the finished work. ink is tricky, & i am still learning the best ways to use it. i use rapidograph ink pens, bamboo pens, & ink brush.

this display of finished portraits is a sampling of my favorites as well as a sampling of the different directions my portraits travelled.

my website:

my patreon site:

instagram: @quixoticmama

etsy: quixoticmamaArt

available from amazon: confusion perfume & other neurotic comics