Artists are often on the hunt for purpose and subject matter in and for their art.

This type of research can take the form of something mundane to something extremely deep and complex.

Since the earliest of times, artists have been making self-portraits. Using themselves to improve their own understanding of form and color, or using themselves to express an idea that is deeply personal or that they’re most comfortable using only themselves in.

An engaging exhibit featuring local artists' exploration of the self-portrait, "Me, Myself and I?," is currently on view at the Summit Artspace through Aug. 31.

This exhibit, juried by another local artist, Ron White, encouraged applications by artists who are working in all styles of self-portraiture from the abstract or conceptual to the realistic, using any medium.

Multiple prizes were given out: a first, second and third place along with three honorable mention awards.

Some of the more poignant and challenging pieces were not given awards, but are part of why this exhibit is worth visiting.

"Not Today," a photograph printed on canvas by Emily Durway, is a one of the strongest pieces in the exhibit.

In the work, the artist has situated themselves behind a plain white backdrop and is seated in a chair.

They are looking out of the picture and leaning forward just enough so that their hair is hanging down in front of them and they have a serious look on their face that if we read the title of the work correctly is putting up a protective shield or requesting us to not challenge them today.

It’s a beautiful piece — in its honesty and in how we see a real person, expressing real emotion and not some retouched fake-world expression we so often find ourselves confronted with in our everyday lives on television or social media.

Durway is showing real courage in displaying a work this honest. This type of powerful imagery and thoughtful expression should be celebrated and encouraged not only in an exhibit like this but in all of the art world.

"Sometimes You Get Burned," by Kenn Hetzel, is a wood relief-sculpture piece that is coffin shaped and has its lower half completely charred and partially burned away. It’s a powerful looking work that references a human body even more as the bottom part of the sculpture hangs and is separated in such a way that it could be interpreted as legs.

How to correctly understand the information being shared here is somewhat beside the point. What the artist is doing successfully is pointing to an autobiographical part of themselves and doing so in such a direct and forceful way that it is difficult to not look at and engage with this piece.

A work that was given an honorable mention, "I tried to love her fiercely," an oil on canvas by Linda Hutchinson, is a self-portrait that radiates with an inner glow.

The title of the work also helps to enhance the meaning of the painting. Hutchinson’s gestural mark, along with a soft and deliberate color palette, helps tell a story beyond what you are presented within the gallery. Its a subtle piece that doesn’t hit you over the head, but is extremely narrative and hopeful in its expression.

Perhaps as much as any work in the show, "Guardian Angel of the Good Death," an oil on linen by Judy Takács, expresses something deeper and offers up a potential story far beyond what is expressed by the work itself.

It’s no wonder it was awarded the first place prize.

In this painting three self-portraits of the artist stand side by side with the middle self-portrait sporting a pair of wings.

Each self-portrait has a different expression on their face, from what is perhaps a state of worry, to what appears to be someone asking a question with their eyes. All of this activity is painted with an energetic and painterly line that goes from realistic to illustrative in the space of inches.

The self-portrait is a great way for an artist to research the portrayal of emotion through realistic depiction or through sharing some type of personal information. It highlights who artists are as human beings and shares a level of vulnerability in its expression that deserves to be celebrated.

Contact Anderson Turner at haturner3@gmail.com.