Some thoughts from Farmboy Fine Arts President & CEO Todd Towers.
I’M SICK OF MY SELFIE.
Warhol once famously said that we will all be famous for 15 minutes. Today, the art icon’s statement seems more than a little prophetic, given the current fever around the media-fueled-celebrity-vulture-gossip industry. It seems to have come true. And we seem to be embracing it.
You need look no further than the glut of never-ending reality TV and the minute-by-minute instagram “selfies” as proof of our interest in actively documenting and promoting anything that may lead to our 15 minutes.
We have seemingly no end to the means and measures of getting our “selfies” out there to the public, from facebook, instagram, linkedin, and hoards of other social media picture-taker-placers. This proliferation has gotten to the point, I fear I may go completely off my rocker if I see yet another fish-lipped subject posting a “selfie” from their car, a concert, in front of a mirror…
But the self-portrait was not always something instantaneous and lacking meaning.
In fact, art critic Galina Vassilyeva-Shlyapina separates traditional self-portraits into two basic forms; “the professional portraits in which the artist is depicted at work, and ‘personal’ portraits, which reveal moral and psychological features.”1
Think of self-portraits by Rembrandt, Raphael, and Albrecht Durer, by Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Lucian Freud; they’re all considered, labored and poignant in their depiction.
In our current online world, a self-portrait is now so easy, so immediate, it seems celebrating Vassilyeva-Shlyapina’s “professional” portrait is almost entirely lost. The modern self-portrait is instead solely an exploration of “psychological” space, captured frantically every 5-seconds if we “feel” it. Hit the EXPLORE button on instagram to understand what I’m talking about.
Is this our society’s self-portrait for the future? Is this the “psychological” reveal of our contemporary culture and representation of our “professional self”? Or are we just perpetually documenting ourselves as a means to capture Warhol’s promised fame? After all, he famously used self-portraits as a kind of lightening rod to making himself famous… Does the pursuit of fame alone break our connection to greater meaning and the self?
Or perhaps this exhaustive process of continually taking “selfies” is simply begging for a much larger context, revealing our global psychology and profession… Heady I know, but think about arguably the coolest “selfie” of the last decade.
It’s of our Earth, taken via satellite from Saturn. This is the ultimate “selfie”, shot from 898.5 million miles awayin July by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft2. This portrait brings us back to Vassilyeva-Shlyapina’s categories. Like the self-portraits of the early renaissance, Earth’s self-portrait was a carefully considered opportunity taking 3-years of planning. It encompasses us in a “professional” capacity and a “personal” one.
I wonder what the Masters or Warhol would have thought of this portrait, its massive context essentially turning a singular self-portrait into one in which we are all essentially represented in an instant… Then again, I wonder what they’d say to our myriad of thoughtless “selfies” captured on phones…