Oct 24, 2007 at 12:00 am

"For the past few years, I've been dreaming about escape," says artist Ann Gordon. "Around the holidays, they play those Bond marathons on TV. You know, he's sorta like my father, my boyfriend and me ..."

Man. The stuff you could read into a statement like that (aside from the glaring identity issues). Here's a character wrapped up in outlandishly glamorous adventures, striking down those who aim to deceive and destroy.

In a recent painting, Bond on the beach became Gordon's surrogate. It actually makes sense if you consider that the young painter just took off for a trip to Europe before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her career. But it doesn't look a damn thing like her.

What defines a self-portrait? In the classic sense, it's an artist looking in the mirror and re-creating what they see (self-portraits came into fashion after mirrors were invented, back in the 15th century). It's also a way to tease out the imbalance between the id, ego and superego. Jerome Ferretti years ago concocted the "Jake Face," in the form of Jake-up cards, Jake cookies — even tattoos, which is kind of like slathering your narcissism on others and making it stick. When asked about the origin of the Jake Face, Ferretti mocks his (and our) megalomania: "Oh, the Jake Face has been around since the Middle Ages."

In self-portraiture, what's repressed gets recorded with the nuance of a face that's been written on a wall. The nature of being takes shape. Internal anguish over inadequacy or an obsession with failure, for instance, becomes a perceivable flaw. Several artists have supplied us with quotes about what attracts them time and again to register mood swings as mere shifts of light. Leyland DeVito invoked Frida Kahlo: "Porque estoy muy sola." Because I am so alone.