The selfie has a noble pedigree. Self-portraiture is a respected aspect of both modern and traditional art. Self-portraits in art history bring to mind such famous artists as: Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, Frida Kahlo, and David Hockney. Most artists have tried their hand at a self-portrait sometime in their career. And there are as many different approaches to the subject as there are artists. David Hockney, a modern painter, gave us an honest, objective self-portrait as a 17-year-old. Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits explored her complex psychological states resulting from an early accident and a problematic marriage to Diego Rivera. Rembrandt painted his life story through many portraits: as a successful young man and later as a wiser, braver senior. Picasso, in a stripped-down style, confronted his fear of old age and death. The American photographer Cindy Sherman has used her self-portraits as a means of exploring what it meant to be a contemporary woman in all its restrictions and opportunities.
And now we have the selfie. Technology has given the self-portrait explosive potential for social contact. The art of the self-portrait is as close as your phone.
In the past, artists have used their self-portraits as a kind of business card: “here I am and this is the quality you can expect”. This was important to artists who relied on the patronage of the rich and titled. The modern selfie often shows the things we are interested in, our passions or our fears; what we had for dinner. This approach can illustrate our world view as well as our emotional being.
Like Magne in the Netflix show Ragnarok who envisioned himself as a reincarnation of the Norse god Thor, an artist can envision themself as a better self or someone they are striving to be or could emulate. Are we remembering an Alice in Wonderland who was caught between childhood and adulthood or a cyborg of the late 21st century?
This is the season of introspection: Take some time to look at yourself, try your hand at a self-portrait or a selfie. Let your imagination soar! The Monashee Arts Council is calling for entries into our March show “Through the Looking Glass or the Selfie”. All media will be accepted.
Applications are available at the Village Gallery and online at the monasheeartscouncil.com. Deadline for entries is February 25th. Call 778-473-3029 for more information.