This solo exhibition will feature new work from my latest series of cut and combined paintings of strangers' selfies taken from social media and dating sites - also, some guys I've met, and self portraits - I figured I'm implicated in all this, right?
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Self Divided Self

Cut and combined paintings
of strangers’ selfies
from social media and dating sites
by Jeff Stevenson

Center on Halsted, 2nd Floor Gallery
3656 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60613
Opening Reception:
Friday, November 18, 2016
6 - 9 p.m.
Exhibition Dates: November 18 - January 3, 2017

These artworks challenge the viewer by simultaneously presenting two portraits that are interrupting each other; while our minds naturally seek to fill in what's not there to complete the images, we cannot hold either image in its entirety. "I Know He Isn't You" (pictured above) uses the broken portraits to conceal aspects of the face and therefor aspects of the identity of those being represented. These paintings connote our human desire to reveal and to hide, but also to exit the present moment - our divided attention, going to our phones or some other device, or by being distracted by our own thoughts.

I find that making paintings from selfies is particularly contemporary, taking disposable images and ensconcing them in the tradition of oil portrait painting, building a bridge between our current era of ephemeral digital proliferation and our rich Art History. 

I began by collecting and painting strangers’ selfies that showed evidence of certain characteristics and moments. When we are alone, taking our own picture in front of a computer screen, a mirror, or with our phone, it is a solitary, non-social behavior. As we craft our online profile, cultivating an image of ourselves to present to others, it is often done in solitude.

The divided self: what our online profiles are about — the curated, public self, versus the authentic, or at least private, self. The work speaks to the anxiety that the self-as-curated-persona creates: the anxiety of not just projecting a ‘self’ that matches how we see ourselves in public, but also one that doesn’t betray our authentic, private self.

This is particularly poignant in the online dating realm. How do we craft this presented self that, if things go well, will seamlessly transition to the authentic, private self? We showcase ourselves in the hopes of attracting someone, but we can’t be too ‘crafted’ or the whole game is lost. The rise of social media has in some ways led to a crisis of identity.

The personal is political and speaks to the universal human experience of identity, belonging, and being an individual within a group. Although my paintings are highly personal they also connect to a collective consciousness, the idea that we are all in this together.

above: "I Know He Isn't You"
below: "The Sargent Wants To Send Me Gold"
both are 30x30 inches framed
oil on Arches oil paper, with gold leaf

Copyright © 2016 Jeff Stevenson, All rights reserved.

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Artist Jeff Stevenson · 1 University Parkway · University Park, IL 60484 · USA

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