Selfies
January 9 – February 6, 2015
Helen Christou Gallery | LINC Building | Level 9


Curated by Josephine Mills and David Smith

Selfies explores the much maligned social media phenomenon through art works from the U of L Art Collection as well as new works by Angela Glanzmann and the Cedar Tavern Singers.

The “selfie” posted to social media has become ubiquitous and much maligned as a sign that young people today are too self-focused, without being introspective; yet, as British cartoonist Jamie McKelvie posted to Twitter, no one complained when wealthy white men hired artists to paint their portraits. This exhibition explores classic and contemporary self-representation and invites viewers to add to the discussion by taking selfies in the gallery. Selfies features work from the U of L Art Collection that covers a spectrum of approaches to the self-portrait: traditional, abstract and conceptual. As well, new work by an emerging Halifax artist, Angela Glanzmann, explores the use of imagery within social media forms and a local duo, the Cedar Tavern Singers, will create a project for this exhibition.

Visitors will be encouraged to take “museum selfies” and post to social media throughout the exhibition and undergraduate students in the Art History/Museum Studies program have contributed exhibition labels. As well, the U of L Art Gallery will invite artists to be Social Media Artists-In-Residence and create engagement via our social media platforms. The exhibition includes work by Iain Baxter&, Carl Beam, Dianne Bos, Ambrose McEvoy, Edward Steichen, Jin-me Yoon, and many others.

Curatorial Statement
The “selfie” posted to social media has become ubiquitous and much maligned as a sign that young people today are too self-focused and are not introspective, yet, as British cartoonist Jamie McKelvie posted to Twitter, no one complained when it was common place for wealthy white men to hire artists to paint their portraits. And, of course, the self-portrait has also long been a standard subject for artists. The works in the Selfies exhibition explore classic and contemporary self-representation and provide some context for our current understanding of this topic. The exhibition is displayed in both of the University of Lethbridge Art Galleries: here in the Helen Christou Gallery (until February 6) and in the Main Gallery of the 6th level of the Centre for the Arts (January 22 – March 19, 2015). Selfies features work from the U of L’s renowned collection that covers a spectrum of approaches to the self-portrait: traditional, abstract, and conceptual. As well, located in the Main Gallery, new work by an emerging Halifax artist, Angela Glanzmann, explores the use of imagery within social media forms, and local duo the Cedar Tavern Singers will create a project to accompany this exhibition. Adding to the conversation, undergraduate students in the Dept. of Art’s Art History/Museum Studies courses have contributed exhibition labels that provide more information on individual works as well as the student’s perspective on their selection.
David Smith and I co-curated this exhibition. Initially, I developed the idea both to broaden the discussion about “selfies” and also to support a conversation between gallery visitors and the U of L Art Gallery’s exhibitions and collection. From this basic idea, David then undertook the challenging task of searching the 14,000 works in the U of L Collection to find all the possible self-portraits from which we could select for the exhibition. He researched the broadest interpretation of the subject to find not only the obvious, classic versions but also the unconventional ones. The result gives an excellent sense of the diversity of the U of L Collection as this exhibition includes historical, modern, and contemporary works in a variety of media and by a range from well-known and international artists as well as local and more obscure names. Viewers can simply enjoy the variety of works or if interested, can add to the discussion through social media and by interacting with the social media artists in residence who will be active on the U of L Art Gallery’s Twitter feed throughout the exhibition. With changes in technology and the rise of social media, public galleries in Canada now permit, or even overtly welcome, visitors taking photographs of art works. It is an important way for people to connect with the art works as well as to promote the artists and galleries. Thus, visitors to the U of L Art Gallery can take photographs and post #MuseumSelfies to social media.

– Josephine Mills, Director/Curator, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery

A great idea for an exhibition of work from the collection may be completely irrelevant if there are no works in the collection to support such a show. Similarly if there are works available, but identifying them is impossible, it is very difficult to come up with a selection to fit the theme. This was one of the major challenges with selecting the works for Selfies. Not all self-portraits in the collection can be easily identified in a single search. Titles range from the standard Self-Portrait to Portrait of the Artist and even into more challenging titles like The Artist and His Son Among the Islands. Some of the research done for this exhibition was reflecting upon personal experience having seen specific works. Those such as Jin Me Yoon’s, Souvenirs of the Self and Ian Baxter&’s Reflected Paris Beauty Spots were only familiar to me because I have physically handled them. Other works such as Carl Beam’s Cross & Self Validate were only brought to my attention through conversation with individuals familiar with this collection. The list of works in this exhibition is by no means comprehensive; I am learning about more “selfies” in the collection all the time.

– David Smith, Assistant Curator, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery

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