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Margo Humphrey, The History of Her Life Written across Her Face, 1991, color lithograph, 32 x 29 1/2 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Norvel and Mary Perry Smith, 1991.13

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Explore this unusual self-portrait using the Zoomify tool! The controls under the image allow you to zoom in (+) and out (-). Use the arrows or your mouse to move around this curious piece!

The History of Her Life Written across Her Face is a visual, metaphorical, and written representation of Margo Humphrey's experience as an African American artist and woman.

She began sketches for this portrait in 1986, inspired by images of veiled women whose physical features were obscured, and by a photograph from National Geographic of a woman with a Sanskrit prayer tatooed across her face. Humphrey has traveled and lived in the Pacific Islands and several African nations where people adorn the body and face with images that serve as social and religious statements.

What can you learn about Humphrey's life from this print? Zoom in and try to decipher her rebus-like code! Then, check out her biography from the University of Maryland to get the text version.


Luce Center for American Art