From Joan Jonas to Theaster Gates, These 8 Artists Fooled the Art World With Alter Egos
Jan 2, 2017
Alexxa Gotthardt

At one point or another, everyone wants to become someone new. Maybe don a wig, adopt a new name, or adjust your personality. If David Bowie could seamlessly transform into Ziggy Stardust, and Beyoncé can metamorphose into Sasha Fierce, why can’t we do the same? Artists of all stripes have long used alter egos to unlock or enhance aspects of their work. Marcel Duchamp, the king of conceptual art, was one of the first. He surprised the artist community by stepping out in 1920 as his feminine foil, Rrose Sélavy, who sat for Man Ray and made her own sculptures. It’s said that the Dada trickster used Sélavy to expand the traditional definitions of art and artist, conventions he worked long and hard upend. Since then, many creatives have incorporated alter egos into their practices. Lynn Hershman Leeson used hers—the awkward, heavily maquillaged Roberta Breitmore—to explore feminist identity politics…