Reworking the genre of self-portraiture, Mequitta Ahuja probes the construction of both image and identity. To create her paintings, the artist weaves undersized brushstrokes into larger, textured surfaces. This weaving of paint underscores the structure of the images and, in her words, “the deliberate and highly constructed presentation of the subject’s identity.” Off the Edge shows Ahuja confidently stepping across the field, her hand clasping a remote shutter control. Borrowing from Dutch portraiture conventions, Ahuja’s pose is magisterial and her setting is indeterminate (an ambiguous mix of landscape, hair, and galactic imagery). Off the Edge asserts identity as a form of performance. Ahuja underscores this process by borrowing a pose from the history of art and also by referencing her use of photography. Notable within the composition is the hand-held remote shutter control—Ahuja begins a work by taking studio photos of herself with such an apparatus. Although you may not realize at first that Off the Edge is a self-portrait, the corded shutter control brings you back to the reality of the painting’s construction.

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Mequitta Ahuja, American, born 1976
Off the Edge
Oil on canvas
96 × 76 in. (243.8 × 193 cm)
Credit Line

Museum purchase funded by the African American Art Advisory Association

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number

The artist; purchased by MFAH, 2008.