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Sense of 'Selfie'


Brendan Williams

Selfies are, indeed, an art form.

From the self-portraiture by Rembrandt and Raphael during the Renaissance to the age of perpetual social media feeds and disappearing Snapchats, selfies have been a thing — a beautiful, culture-enriching thing at that.

In Selfies: An Exploration on Identity, curators Mary Kathryn Moeller and Krystle Brewer — along with 24 local and national artists — will attempt to define the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 in terms of a collective and individual identity.

“I guess it’s better than picking something like ‘twerking’ or whatever,” Moeller said.

Moeller and Brewer wanted to use the term to spark a deeper conversation on self-portraiture and how humans construct their identities for an audience.

For about a year, Moeller and Brewer had been thinking about the concept of how anyone can effortlessly send a self-portrait to the masses in mere seconds.

“They’re supposed to come across as kind of like, ‘Hey, just randomly took this quick picture of myself,’” Moeller said. “The whole reason you’re taking it is because you’re in an environment in which you’ve done something that you wish to present to the world. It’s very well-orchestrated, and self-portraiture has always been well-orchestrated; that’s the whole point of it.”

The exhibition, which opens Friday at Mainsite Contemporary Art during Norman’s 2nd Friday Circuit of Art, features a slew of artists who translated the concept of a selfie using various media — including Instagram — but several pieces don’t feature a human face or figure at all.

“We had this whole idea about the presentation of self, the way artists present self and the way that’s always been a part of artistic practice,” Moeller said.

Kerry Azzarello, artist and operations manager at Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, said the two pieces she will feature in the show are far from the stereotype associated with the word.

Azzarello’s works, “Were You Born to Do?” and “Your Gut,” pair x-ray images of her body with thought-provoking phrases, which creates a dynamic between the physical and psychological self.

“I am intrigued by the concept’s complexity and think art is in a unique position to shed light on the subject’s depth,” Azzarello said, adding that she thinks it’s important to see how artists grapple with self-portraiture. “Given the popularity of selfies in the general public, this exhibition offers a much-needed chance to pause and reflect.”

According to Moeller, artists have long been exploring identity through portraiture, its ability to change easily and infinitely but on the individual’s cue.

“The selfie is just the next incarnation of [self-portraiture],” Moeller said. “Instead of it being professionally trained artists, it’s all of us.”

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