/*Internet Series*/namespace UserIdentity = Avatar;
Oil on Wood Panel
24 x 30 inches
For me, the inspiration for this entire series came from thinking about art history. There are many charming paintings of people, especially women working indoors: women using sewing machines, doing embroidery, preparing food, or writing at a desk in front of a window. I realized that I rarely see the modern equivalent: people using a computer. For one, it’s hard to make it look interesting if it’s just depicting reality. Secondly, all the exciting action-filled things about utilizing a computer are mental in nature. Rather than letting this hinder the exploration, I decided it was an invitation to go a little surreal.
This painting is the second part of my Internet Series. I welcome those who view it to make their own interesting stories. It is always interesting to hear what others see in this image, and I have heard some “third-party” stories that I like every bit as much as my intended message. I am going to share my inspiration below, but don’t let it clip the wings of your own imagination!
People post on social media, and chat anonymously behind avatars, curating an image of who they want to be in the eyes of others. One of our new computer/Internet generated behaviors is the use of avatars in place of our own limited biological bodies. It’s fun to try on new personas behind the mask of a screen. We can choose how we are going to interact in the world, even selecting a supernatural persona or that of the opposite gender to experience multiplayer games, anonymous forums, social sites, and more. With the screen as our closet of infinite possibilities, we can don any skin. We can drastically alter how we present ourselves. That relatively new phenomena (within the scale of history) is the focus of this painting.
I asked Hannee, my model, to collaborate on this painting. She does a lot of cosplay, and some gaming too, so she cultivates new personas online all the time for fun. I did not say anything about what sort of avatar to choose, I just told her the concept, reminded her that there were no limits to the accessories I could add with paint, and I asked her to surprise me with a fantastical outfit. She chose the form of a beautiful angel. Thus, while “real Hannee” uses the laptop, her avatar emerges from the computer and regards us with a Mona Lisa smile because only she knows who she really is offline. Because angels are packed with layers of symbolism, the painting took on many extra meanings through my collaboration with Hannee.
Fun fact: This painting was featured on a local news morning show, “Wake Up 2day”. The story of the painting was explained by the curator of the “Lasting Impressions” show, MaryAnne Long. It was also shown twice in panning shots accompanying two separate nightly news stories on 2 different channels. The “Lasting Impressions” show was the first art show during “Tier 3”, allowed to have a reception after the COVID-19 pandemic, so it got a lot of coverage in local news!