Selfies and the Art of the Self Portrait
Some of my favourite paintings done by my father are his self portraits. They are him, certainly, but they are not - they are studies in portraiture, the human face, and, when looked at as a series, a story of a life being lived. In an early self-portrait he is clean shaven with a neat moustache, in a more recent painting he sports a full beard (something which still catches me by surprise as Dad only started wearing a beard in his 70s...)
This piece was the last done before Dad grew his beard. What is striking to me about these drawings and paintings is they completely lack any 'say cheese' quality ubiquitous in snapshots taken during family gatherings, vacations, or when friends get together for an evening of fun. I suppose that's partly the result of having to sit and stare at yourself long enough to actually do some sort of hand-crafted rendering. Grinning like an idiot for hours and hours would surely cramp cheek muscles and quickly transform a big smile into a pained grimace.
The selfie (a self-portrait typically taken with a hand-held device and often intended to be uploaded to a social media site) can be a grinning snapshot (there are plenty out there of people snapping self-portraits with an off kilter Eiffel Tower in the background) or have a 'look at me and this cool thing I'm doing with this awesome other person!' flavour, but there are also lots of selfies out there that explore who we are in our everyday lives. Felfies (self-portraits of farmers) are an example of self-portraits of farmers from around the world in their natural environments doing their thing.
In this New York Times piece, James Franco suggests the selfie is a way to introduce ourselves to the wide world and for celebrities to feed their hungry fans with an endless diet of glimpses into their private lives.
The selfie as an art form is emerging as a fascinating way to capture how we see ourselves, how others see us, and, perhaps, how we want others to see us.
This article looks at the selfie as an art form and coincides with the opening of the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery. [Why, I wonder, are so many of the sample images included with the article taken in public washrooms?]
I have been working on a series of selfies that challenge cultural ideas of beauty and aging [don't get me started... I could probably sustain a year of blogging relating to those issues]
In the end, will the selfie be an art form at which we roll our eyes?
Or will it prove to be an uncanny way to uncover something about the self that lurks behind the cheesy smile of snapshots and only emerges when you spend some quiet time alone pointing your phone at your face...
What's happening down on the farm? Visit the Dark Creek Farm blog.
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