Over the past decade, Selfies have become ubiquitous on social media. Often criticized as denoting narcissism or low self-esteem, perhaps a harmless form of self-expression, the jury is still out on the social, political, and psychological meaning of these images.
It is generally thought that the first “Selfie” was taken by Robert Cornelius, a photographic self-portrait he created in Philadelphia in 1839. In 1970, Canadian conceptual artist Michael Snow took 24 polaroids of himself with scenes of Venetian architecture behind his head. On the surface, this suggests an early use of Selfie as art. However, in the images he has his eyes closed and is vigorously shaking his head, blurring his face. Whether these are early selfies or conceptual art is open to interpretation.
Today’s ‘selfies’ are basically self-portraits taken usually with a phone-camera. They are usually taken quickly and impulsively and often with a landmark or scene as the background to the photographer’s face, perhaps to show others that they were there. These images take seconds to create and post on social media.
My project, Slow Selfies, is an ironic and playful take on the ‘selfie’. I have borrowed from the aesthetic of the selfie. As in a selfie, my face is in the foreground with a scene or landmark in the background. However, I have slowed down the process and removed the camera, painting watercolour studies on location and with the use of a mirror, in Spain, on the route of the Camino walk.
These studies were done at a contemplative pace, taking three to five hours each to do. Different days, moods and atmospheres were reflected in different styles of portraits. I further slowed the process down by painting large acrylics based on the studies. By exhibiting them in a gallery rather than on social media, I hope to add to the dialogue about the value and significance of selfies and engage the viewer in examining selfies in the context of art, self-expression and culture.
Much gratitude goes to the family of Regan Peacock-Fung and the Regan Peacock-Fung Memorial Fund which largely supported my trip to Spain.
– Jim Maunder
A native of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, I have lived and worked in St. Catharines for the past 8 years.
My work has always been about human relationships with the natural environment, and identity. While my practice has mainly been in sculpture, large and small, I am now pursuing painting, ceramic, and bronze. I have always drawn and painted, particularly in watercolour, and have concentrated on the figure and portrait.
I am a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and have participated in many solo, group, and invitational shows. I have completed five major public sculptures and taught evening art classes for 25 years.