This is not a post about the impact of digital technology on the art world. This is a post about the use of digital technology to curate ourselves, to create art, and to connect.
When we engage in digital spaces— Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, all of them— we do so as curators. We curate not only our lists of friends, people we’re following, preferred sites, but we curate ourselves as well.
We fracture the presentation of our selves, our public image. We edit out the ugly bits of us, we mix and rearrange the events of our lives to form a narrative, we highlight certain moments and try to color over others.
As an artist, many of my newer works reflect this notion of digital curation. I begin with a photograph— itself already an abstraction, a concept or moment taken out of context. The image is transferred to an acrylic medium, bringing a tactile sensation to my work, that I cut and reassemble onto a new surface.
This use of the digital, to first present, then re-present, to construct out of deconstruction, removes the chaos from subjects and reveals the underlying connections of their presence. In “Earth. Sky.,” below, you can see that though any one blue rectangle by itself doesn’t evoke much, when brought together, the notion of a blue sky, a sunny day, an afternoon on the farm, begins to emerge. I am creating for you, the viewer, a meaning from a network of images, much like I create, for friends, family, and followers online, a meaning of who I am from a network of human connections.
Earth. Sky. 2016, acrylic photo transfer on wood.
In another vein of my work, I am a builder rather than curator. The use of digital media allows me to interact with my pieces in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. In Busy Work, I can create a moment in which a bee allows me into its world, not only as an observer, but as a participant, as a friend.
Busy Work. 2016, acrylic photo transfer on paper.
Much in the same way that digital media allows us to to explore our interests and present ourselves as followers, we are also given the means to build our circles with a much broader reach. The use of digital spaces for communicating has allowed me to create a universe unfettered by distance and scale. Being able to share my work with communities online has allowed me to learn more about my work and myself. In this same way, when we communicate via digital spaces with people we normally wouldn’t be able to interact with, we are given opportunities to grow and develop as a person, as a team, as a community.
I’ve known my friend Rhonda for over fifteen years now. But we have never met. In sharing images of my work with her, she has helped me to grasp words that emulate my pieces and conclusions that I hadn’t yet been able to describe. I see similarities in her reaction to my recent work and the ways we all choose to stay connected in real life or online.
As Rhonda has said of my work,
“In some ways, it reminds me of pixelation, but in other ways this can be how an image stretches its shadow over an object–all uneven and disconnected. However, regardless of how the image presents itself, I find myself wanting to connect it together and make it whole–I still see the whole image despite it being presented in pieces.
I think that says a lot about how we view our lives, too. We are compartments and fragments, but we experience these things in the wholeness of our beings.”
You can find more of Saybra’s art on display in Austin, Texas, for the East Austin Studio Tour at tour space #53, November 12th-13th and 19th-20th. You can find her work online at Saybra Giles Fine Art.