Ruth: Artists who "transform their own bodies" include Yves Klein,
who made full-body imprints in blue paint, a color that became known
as"Yves Klein blue," in the 60s. That tradition has carried on
through others such as Vito Acconci. There are a number of
contemporary artists who use their bodies directly in what must be
painful performance pieces--probing with pointed implements, hanging
by delicate appendages, etc. Perhaps the most documented of these
is Orlan (also French, as was Klein), who has been systematically
transforming her features to resemble those of historically
acclaimed "beauties"--from famous works of art--the brow of one, the
lips of another; this occurs in a series of cosmetic surgeries that
are done with local anaesthetic, during which she converses, reads
poetry, conducts interviews...and they're documented as the process
of the work. Most people get grossed out by the process and miss
one of the major messages in her work: that people go to extremes in
search of an elusive ideal that is unattainable, and, if it is
attained, is not the ideal that it seemed to be.
There is a whole earlier tradition of artists "masquerading" in
their own work--e.g. Max Beckmann--and many others where the artist
may have used a self-portrait not identified as such--Breughel, A.
Gentileschi, etc. This is a big topic! Good luck in your search.
-Patience Young, Stanford