open for discussion: oxymoron in the parlor

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It’s an 800-pounder and it won’t go away.  Everything tried, from a nice bowl of milk on the back stoop, to “Lollipop” blasting out of  the tasseled lamp shade—it doesn’t budge.  Selfies in Tapestry is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, a self-confuting no-way.    So what are we talking about?

This blog is a shared journey, 20+ months of traveling in discussion and art-making that has bended our usage and meaning of the word “selfie” to its own purposes: we have embraced and enjoyed the oxymoron.  It’s a bite of jargon, a familiar term with an insider twist.  Our usage of “selfie” encompasses the irony, the anachronism—the spoof—the hubris of proposing that selfies can be woven mindfully by hand in tapestry.

The contradiction of slow-made, carefully constructed selfies is appealing in its challenges, both conceptual and technical, for tapestry weavers, and for its good-humored nudge at a base question for all who make images by hand in the age of click-and-post. How the artists in this blog choose terms, selfie, self-portrait, portrait, face or figure, in describing their tapestries is personal, possibly pivotal; or for some, perhaps not all that important.  If any conclusions are drawn from this project, they will be distilled from the scope of our individual responses to this idea: a big, multifaceted, self-contradictory idea . . . squatting in the middle of our parlor.   —MLS, April 2015



margaret sunday Fracked Selfie detailselfie head - Copy 2

a compilation of definitions and descriptions encountered in gathering the contents of this blog.  It’s purposes are to help us see  how the blog presents these terms, and how as individuals and as a group we are enriching their meanings.  If you have thoughts, corrections and additions for the list, please write to us in the Replies box at the bottom of this page.

Self-portrait: a likeness, or representation, of the artist made by himself (a work of art).

Selfie: a type of self-portrait with particular characteristics. (It might or might not be a work of art, therefore  described as a “democratic” self-portrait.)

 Characteristics of Selfies

The Selfie Maker—

— can be anyone with access to the technology (is not limited to artists);

— is statistically, but not always, a young woman;

— creates her selfie within the limitations defined by the medium;

— is assumed to be the person who posts her Selfie on a social media platform.

The Intent of Selfies—

is to function as a mode of conversation, to be used in social interactions;

— is to be replaced and updated. (A Selfie by implication belongs to a series of impermanent Selfies.)

The Audience—

— is determined initially by the maker’s social media access and practices; expresses digital savvy and connectivity;

— can be random, anonymous;

— is potentially unlimited in time and place;

— implicitly understands that a Selfie is self-generated by the original poster (and therefore the image is presumed, correctly or not,  to be shared with the subject’s permission), as well as other aspects of the social context of a Selfie.

The Medium—

— is photography;

— is taken with hand-held digital technology, usually a mobile telephone;

— is spontaneous, fast and unplanned in execution;

— is usually created and disseminated in an almost simultaneous, continuous action;

— can be (or seem) technically unfiltered, naive, accidental;

— therefore random information and effects are acceptable;

— and Selfies can appear  to be uncontrived, personal, immediate or authentic.

— entails potentially unlimited replication and storage;

— yet is also disposable and replaceable.

— is small-format in its concept and physical form;

— has characteristic spatial effects, including tilted views, foreshortening, shallow depth of field and cropped framing.

— has generated a subcategory of non-idealized, normalized images of makers, called “ugly selfies”;

— identifies disseminated images by the # sign: #selfie, #me.

Self-portraits contrasted with Selfies

The Intent —

— focuses on preservation of the image, and its potential for impacting an audience in an unknown future (posterity).

The Audience—

— of Self-portraits like that of Selfies, is accessed and disseminated according to the nature of their media.  The self-portrait exists as a unique entity, or as a limited edition of originals. While the self-portrait image can be reproduced, the original work cannot, and access the artist’s expression is by default restricted, unlike the potentially unlimited access of a Selfie.

Shared Characteristics of Self-portraits and Selfies    

— include the intent of the maker to use visual means for communicating about himself;

— to document, or purport to document, the maker’s current setting, or context, in time, place, culture and history;

— to likewise document the maker’s social status, social access, material possessions and activities;

— to likewise document the maker’s personal qualities (health, age, mood, state of mind, concept of self, attractiveness, sexuality, gender, etc.);

— to create a life narrative through a sequence of self-generated images;

— to satisfy the maker’s personal / psychological drives and goals: “technology-enabled self-exploration” (Psychology Today);

— to explore or manipulate the medium for artistic, intellectual, or expressive ends;

— to attract attention to a cause or idea;

— marketing, promotions (self-promotion).

selfie head - Copy 1


1) Who makes Selfies?

2) Does the context of the Selfie play an important part in making the Selfie a Selfie? In other words, does the place where the Selfie [is taken] play an important role? Or does any picture that you take of yourself count?

Thoughts on “Questions about Selfies” continued on next page—



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