“Selfies: A Modern Folk Art”
By Jennifer Lindquist
On May 19, 2014, a PR Newswire was published announcing that the word “selfie” was officially added to the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary. A few months prior, the word “selfie” was named Oxford Dictionaries’ International Word of the Year 2013. This means that the word had been identified as having “a phenomenal upward trend in use”, explained Judy Pearsall, Editorial Director for Oxford Dictionaries (17,000% increase, year-to-date). The word also was “judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.” (http://public.oed.com/about/frequently-asked-questions/)
I would argue that it is not just the word that has cultural significance but the activity of taking selfies and the photographic image that is produced and disseminated, the artifact.
No matter what you think of selfies – low-brow art, childish party-tricks, narcissistic self-promotion or image-diary and travelogue – they are possibly “the most prevalent popular (artistic) genre ever”, as posed by Jerry Saltz in his article “Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie”, February 3, 2014, New York Times Magazine. Saltz goes on to explain that because the selfie genre was not created by artists, but “comes from all of us; they are a folk art that is already expanding the language and lexicon of photography . . . they are a photography of modern life . . .
I agree with most assessments – the genre is in its infancy. We will see many incarnations in the future and likely to identify masters of the form.
The City of Sanford is sponsoring a pop-culture campaign featuring the art of Selfies within the settings of its historic downtown locale. Who knows, some future selfie-master may debut right in Sanford’s “Picture Your Selfie in Downtown Sanford” Exhibit (#DTSS)
~ Jennifer Lindquist has been an exhibiting artist/painter since 1989. Her studio is at Gallery On First, Sanford, FL. A certified Art Educator (K-12), a member of Americans for the Arts and the National Art Educators Association.