Mary Milliken | Art and Design

Portraits of Us

Portraits of us



ABOUT: Female bodies, minds, and rights are constantly co-opted, manipulated, or destroyed. This is an outrage, but in the bulk of paintings on display in museums and art history books (painted primarily by male artists), women appear calm and serene. The goal of this project is to reclaim how we, as female-identifying people, are depicted. Each expression, chosen by the subject herself, is not meant to please or calm the viewer because women's faces and minds do not exist to please or calm. In addition, each portrait is painted on cardboard retrieved from the garbage. This is because cardboard, a disposable, usable, and easily discarded material, is a metaphor for the patriarchal attitudes toward women and the environment. The chaotic and haphazard brush strokes combined with the dripping, reflective paint reflect the subjects' emotion. We are NOT disposable. We deserve respect, dignity, and recognition.  


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: If you would like to participate in this project, please send a photo to All female-identifying persons are welcome to submit. Each submission must meet the following requirements:

  • Each photo should express genuine emotion, inspired by a memory or event.
  • If the subject's eyes are open, they must be looking directly at the camera. 
  • More than one photo may be submitted but only one photo will be painted. Unless specified, the artist will choose the photo. 
  • The face angle/tilt may be arbitrary, but each photo must include the subject's entire head, preferably taken from above the shoulder. 
  • Photo quality must be perfect. Low-resolution, grainy, or obscured photos will not be accepted. 
  • If possible, please include a backstory with submission. What inspired this expression? 


DISCLAIMER: By submitting, you are consenting to have your portrait painted by Mary Milliken with the possibility that said portrait be publicly displayed. Original photos will not be displayed or shared without specific permission. Please specify if you wish to include your name, otherwise you will be labelled as "Anonymous." 


BACKGROUND & INSPIRATION: In the wake of Trump's election and faced with the end of a grueling year, I painted a self-portrait depicting myriad feelings I was stewing in at the time (top left). Like so many others, I was enraged, confused, and tired. I felt silenced and dismissed. When I finished the self-portrait, I showed it to my father. He was taken aback at my expression and said, "This is difficult to look at." Inspired by his discomfort, I asked female-identifying friends to send selfies of themselves depicting their own feelings. Thus, "Portraits of Us" was born.