Being original is almost impossible...
Thy Selfie employs the structures, conventions, and formal qualities used in fashion spreads, social media, and advertising to offer an analysis of the ways images function in a culture that creates myriad attacks on female self-esteem. Tethered to a state of ambivalence, playing on a collective understanding of the world around us as exposed and defenseless, these self-portraits - extremely constructed yet paradoxically speaking of the need to let go - aim to make visible the iconography of mindless consumerism and incessant self-promotion: bold, colorful, and everpresent (due to the inherent relationship between photography and facile reproduction) but lacking a real and nuanced sense of purpose.
Aptly enough, the series speaks the language of appropriation referencing both neoclassical oil paintings and contemporary photography. Each piece reflects on the tendency of contemporary art to devour visual references indiscriminately, simultaneously paying homage to The Fragrant Rose (John William Godward, 1892) and Oranges (Artur Hill, 1880) as well as Richard Avedon's portrayal of his subjects against a white background, with no extraneous details to distract from the essential specificity of the gaze. Yet, undoubtedly, the mirror in front of which these photographs must be placed is Ana Mendieta's experimental series of photographs of her face.
The pristine, curated, half-hidden and, most importantly, innocuous face in Thy Selfie is to be measured against Mendieta’s face deformed by make-up, wigs, and torn pantyhose stretched over her head Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations), her face partially concealed by her soaped-up hair Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations), and a silent Super-8 film Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood) showing Mendieta holding a pose of impassive calm as blood appears to ooze from her hairline and trickles down her inexpressive face. Her face speaks of the willingness of artists to dictate the terms on which to be judged - their art nothing if not a visuals autobiography that reflects their times.
What about the other face? The one sitting pretty amidst lush leaves and plump lemons telling her stories with a barely perceptible whisper? What does it say about our time decked out in pastel aesthetics as a symbol of aspirational well-being? What about the endless selfies? Endless filters? Endless mood boards? Would any of it lead us to ask questions, and would the answers change us? Are we still recognizable to ourselves? Can we strike out on our own while maintaining our authenticity? What do we stand for?
- Visual Influences
Ana Mendieta - While primarily known for leaving the imprint of her body in patches of land, a poetic form of self-portraiture, Ana Mendieta also created several photographic self-portraits. Her face is visible in these works, but Mendieta distorts, disguises, and otherwise disfigures it, purposely preventing viewers from seeing the artist as she truly is.
Richard Avedon Portraits - With uncompromising directness, Avedon portrayed his subjects against a white background, with no extraneous details to distract from the essential specificity of face, gaze, dress, and gesture.