Selves in Art and Selfies

By Tanya Silverman

Many works at The Selfie and Others aren’t selfies, per se. But all the pieces that now hang at Marymount Manhattan College’s (MMC) Hewitt Gallery of Art portray the expanding diversity of mediums available to illustrate ourselves and others.

Jenny Dubnau’s self portraits.

One traditional artistic medium, oil painting, is exhibited through Jenny Dubnau’s awkwardly alluring self-portraits. In one rendition, the artist looks seemingly inquisitive, certainly positioned–with crunched up arms and exposed armpits–eerily staring the spectator in the eye.

Across the MMC hall plays a video installation series by Bo Gehring: Portraits. Living, breathing human subjects are intimately scanned from the bottom of their feet up. It feels voyeuristic to patiently study the nitty-gritty of the fibers on their shoes, scales and scrabs on their exposed skin, or freckles on their faces.

Other pieces in this art exhibit are deliberate digital selfies–and definite art selfies. Photos of young people propping selfie sticks, Jeff Koons cameos (whose art show encouraged selfies), or gallery attendants replicating the surrounding portraits’ expressions are compiled on a wall that invites all students, faculty, and staff to post upon.

Hallie Cohen, Chair of MMC’s Art & Art History Department, curated the exhibit. The collaborative wall, she explains, is important for engaging the MMC “students to really feel they are part of what’s going on and become more aware of the gallery as their space.”

The curator says that part of the reason she chose to put on The Selfie and Others is because the school is offering a Contemporary Portraiture course. MMC professor Judy Mannarino’s Women Series is featured, offering a jeweled, pearled, and styled mash-up of feminine faces.

Joseph Santore’s self portraits.

When addressing the question of “what makes an image a piece of art or just a piece of digitalized, pixilated information,” Cohen assesses:

“I don’t think it’s the medium that makes the art but I do think it’s something about the way the artist sees and expresses the visual image they capture.”

Raquel, an MMC student who designed the exhibit’s flyer using her own selfie, recalls the opening night, when she and a friend wanted to strike a selfie with Dubnau and her portraits. Raquel says the artist remarked that she never considered the portrait paintings she intently posed for and studied for hours as selfies.

“A selfie is something that’s in the moment,” reasons Raquel.

Selfies may be ubiquitous at this moment, but that doesn’t take away from however many moments one spends–or whatever means one chooses–for portraiture.

‘The Selfie and Others’ will be on display at NYC’s Marymount Manhattan College until Mar 5.

All photos by Tanya Silverman.