Tag Archives: selfie


Where did I turn for my animated gif self-portrait…?

CAM gif MaybellineHouse Fashion Week Sept. 9 2018

#NYFASHIONWEEK and #MaybellineHouse of course!

On Sunday, Sept. 9, I had one of the most selfie-centric experiences known to civilization.

On the Lower East Side of Manhattan, during New York’s Fashion Week, I found myself in the imagined-yet-real, elusive-yet-tangible, mysterious, nomadic and fantasmagoric world of FashionistaLand. Though it changes in “look” and location (and then poof! vaporizes) twice per year (à la George Costanza’s “promised land” Meat District model-hangout-that-vanished Seinfeld episode) THIS go-round I rode the dragon straight in to “belly of the beast”, that being, a NY Fashion Week event fashioned for and tailored to (ALL puns intended) contemporary culture’s narcissistic selfie-obsession in a hashtagged, branded venue. Scary!

#maybellinehouse Neon Sign Sept 10, 2018

On a superficial level, this experience did not disappoint.

Thanks to the many props provided at the venue, ranging from the giant complexion-friendly pastel-colored blocks to frolic on, MANY lights and mirrors (though no smoke, darn) to a “diva fan” (yep!) and selfie gif station (uh-huh!) I came away with many images

Carolyn at MH FW Edit Sept 10 2018

AND a handy tote bag that I designed in collab with a hipster-for-hire from a selection of Maybelline slogans. I chose “UNSTOPPABLE” over “WILL WORK FOR LIPSTICK”. Hmmm… I wonder why in these #MeToo Time’s Up times?! Not to worry, there was “BOSS LADY” also, which my friend chose (and made me lol because she’s the sweetest woman in the world, but a strong boss lady, too.)

The most intriguing aspect of the tote swag to me, however, was neither it nor the merch to fill it with, though it’s quite fun and generous of any brand to give stuff away, but rather the Hand Jet EBS 260 printer that magically printed my unstoppable slogan amid an array of hearts on my bag. WOOHOOO!!! SWEET! I wish they’d been handing out one of THOSE to stash in my tote!

CAM MaybellineHouse Fashion Week Unstoppable Swag 2 Sept. 9 2018 (2)



CAM MaybellineHouse Fashion Week Sept. 9 2018

You wouldn’t necessarily perceive it from the above photos, BUT after a few hours (and a few hundred selfies later) my group and I were tired of focusing on ourselves. We were tired of hearing the black Maybelline t-shirt clad event staffers reminding us to “use the hashtag!” We were happy to think of heading uptown and sitting down to a long, late lunch/early dinner and our tickets to a Broadway show that same night (Sunday funday!)

Enough selfies, group selfies and selfie gifs.

That is, for now…

CAM gif MaybellineHouse Fashion Week Sept. 9 2018



The Digital Aura: Selfie & Renaissance Gaze Shift

Portraits confront us on the most fundamental level of the self. Self-portraits, even more so.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the current obsession with social media self-portraits via the selfie. Is this a trend of collective narcissicism peaking in our increasingly mediated, digitized and posted lives? Or, is the selfie merely the result of the awesome technology literally in the palm of any smartphone wielding global citizen? Through visual and digital anthropology, aesthetic and media theory, citing art and photographic history, I will explore the digital aura and its significance in culture, art and media.

“Selfie” was a top 10 buzz word in American culture by 2012, though in use before then. “Gaze” has been in use much longer.

The “Renaissance Gaze Shift” is a concept used to describe the evolution from profile to a direct gaze in Renaissance portraiture, paralleled by a socio-economic shift in European wealth from the nobility to the merchant class. One of the Renaissance Gaze Shift’s novel effects, in addition to achieving a hallmark aesthetic, was to celebrate the “individual” which, I contend, is also the hallmark of contemporary selfies.

The term “gaze” was popularized by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan who was influential in the 1960’s and 70’s, to describe the anxious state that comes with the awareness that one can be viewed. The psychological effect, Lacan argues, is that the subject loses a degree of autonomy upon realizing that he or she is a visible object. Judging from any Facebook page, or celebrity Instagram account, this self-conscious, and even anxious state of being viewed, has obviously gone by the wayside in American culture. So too, has our autonomy from being viewed so regularly.

As facial recognition—that most primal and vital of functions—enters the technological realm, the digital aura, is taking on even greater significance, in my opinion. “Our brains are specialized to deal with faces. Indeed, face perception has evolved to occupy more space in our brain than any other figural representation”. [Kandel] As we eerily head toward cyborg life, is the ascent and dominance of a digital platform named Facebook to record our lives or of “app” games like Flinch, a popular online staring contest, any wonder?

Hence my nexus of the superficial selfie to the idealized faces of the Renaissance Gaze, which I show an evolution toward in The Digital Aura video above.

Returning to portraits and self-portraits, such self-images are controlled either by the artist toward the image he/she is rendering or by the sitter controlling the image he/she is putting forth. In other words, the aura. When artist and sitter work in concert, there is often a formidable image and aura created and conveyed. Such image and aura are the main characteristic of portraiture in its most exalted forms: the “royal portrait” and the “society portrait”.

The first photographic self-portrait in the “new medium” of photography (a medium that would come to rival portraits executed in paint) is attributed to Robert Cornelius of Philadelphia, PA, in 1839. The image he successfully captured of himself radiates a certain self-possession, striking both an image and an aura.

But do all self-portraits and their derivative selfies possess unique auras? If not, why not?

I think there’s a clue to addressing the above in the concept of the aura in works of art, as put forth by Walter Benjamin in his prescient and radical essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” which I’ve studied, examined and cited for many years.

But first, we must turn our gaze (all pun) back to the idealized faces of the Renaissance, before the development of photography, to the head-on confrontation of subject to viewer which developed alongside artistic innovations and socio-economic changes: the aforementioned Renaissance Gaze Shift.

The Renaissance Gaze was “third space” thinking and innovation. This preferred direct gaze aesthetic broke the bonds and confines from the revered profiles of the revived classical past. “While the profile portrait was de rigueur in Florence for most of the fifteenth century, artists in Flanders had been painting portraits of sitters turned in three-quarter view” [Virtue & Beauty] by the 1430’s, as well as inventing new media, techniques and a “radical new choice of subject matter: the ‘common’ individual. Northern Renaissance art was the first since antiquity to depict non royal subjects with regularity.” [Brad Finger]

The Flemish trends eventually found their way to Florence and the High Renaissance, so that those portrayed, noble or not, turn to face the viewer in three-quarter view. The Renaissance Gaze engaged the viewer, dramatically shifting the dynamic between subject, artist and viewer, hinting at an inner life thereby newly empowering the subject, art work and aura.

Apexing in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona La Giocanda aka the Mona Lisa, and Raphael’s portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, widely regarded as the prototype Renaissance Man in painting and in life. Enter the humanistic concept of “self-fashioning” [Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning from More to Shakespeare as cited in Portraiture Oxford History of Art] a new notion complete with “how to” manifest Il Cortigiano/The Book of the Courtier penned by Castiglione himself. No longer did enculturation come only through aristocratic birthright and inherited fortune–it could be learned, a seed toward the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, and ultimately Robert Cornelius. (I contend that the self-help, self-discovery and self-actualization movements which routinely become simplistically packaged in to fads, cults, and ceaseless “fountain-of-youth” products also have their roots in Renaissance Humanism, but I don’t want to diminish great minds or digress).

In my opinion, this shift in gaze challenged the concept of self in the way the selfie currently challenges our post-millennial concepts of self, identity, space and time. Therefore, every selfie has its roots in the Renaissance Gaze. Hence, my theory.

Selfie images are indeed portraits, no less contrived than a “society portrait” and increasingly “enhanced” through the use of “app” filter technology. But they are ephemeral, fleeting and of-the-moment, controlled and directed by the circumstance, whim and ego of the shooter (the self). It would take an entire iphone camera roll of selfies to grasp an authentic “portrait” of an individual.

Therefore, I find the selfie to be a micro-portrait and the Renaissance Gaze as the great ancestor of everything in our very visual culture from magazine covers, to the clichéd “Sears portrait”, and now also, the selfie.

End Part I.

To read more on my theory, please visit: The Digital Aura

Excerpt from The Digital Aura: Selfie & Renaissance Gaze Shift February 2015 – April 10, 2015 conceived and written by Carolyn A. McDonough with multimedia content video conceptualized and produced by Carolyn A. McDonough ©2015, 2019 and in perpetuity.

Works Cited:

Benjamin, Walter “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Media & Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Eds. Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas M. Kellner. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001. 48-70.

Finger, Brad, 50 Portraits You Should Know. Prestel, 2014.

Kandel, Eric R., “Face to Face with Portraiture.” Eye to I 3000 Years of Portraiture. Katonah Museum of Art. 2013.

“Virtue & Beauty.” National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. nga.gov. Sept. 2001-Dec. 2002. <https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2001/virtuebeauty/view.shtm>. p. 5.

West, Shearer, Portraiture Oxford History of Art. Oxford University Press, 2004.

WikimediaCommons. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RobertCornelius.jpg>.


Pisanello, Italian, c. 1395-1455 Cecilia Gonzaga, 1426-1451, daughter of Gianfrancesco I [obverse], 1447, lead, overall (diameter): 8.66 cm (3 7/16 in.) gross weight: 215.56 gr (0.475 lb.) axis: 12:00, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1957.14.609.a

Ercole de’ Roberti, Italian, c. 1455/1456-1496 Ginevra Bentivoglio, c. 1474/1477 tempera on panel overall: 53.7 x 38.7 cm (21 1/8 x 15 1/4 in.) framed: 80 x 66 x 7.6 cm (31 1/2 x 26 x 3 in.) Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.220

Girolamo di Benvenuto, Italian, 1470-1524 Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1508 oil on panel painted surface: 58.1 x 43.2 cm (22 7/8 x 17 in.) overall: 60 x 45 cm (23 5/8 x 17 11/16 in.) framed: 75.6 x 59.7 x 8.3 cm (29 3/4 x 23 1/2 x 3 1/4 in.) Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.353

Leonardo da Vinci, Italian, 1452-1519 Ginevra de’ Benci [obverse], c. 1474/1478 oil on panel overall (original panel only): 38.1 x 37 cm (15 x 14 9/16 in.) overall (thickness of original panel): 1.1 cm (7/16 in.) overall (with addition at bottom edge): 42.7 x 37 cm (16 13/16 x 14 9/16 in.) overall (thickness of addition at bottom edge): 1.9 cm (3/4 in.) framed: 59.7 x 57.8 x 3.8 cm (23 1/2 x 22 3/4 x 1 1/2 in.) Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund 1967.6.1.a

WikimediaCommons, Robert Cornelius, self-portrait, “the first light Picture ever taken”, 1839

CultureArtMedia.com, selfie, Carolyn A. McDonough

©2015 Carolyn A. McDonough

Selfie-Ready Always!

MichelangeloSelfieReady 012

I don’t know about you, but certain cultural trends and novelties are puzzling to me. For example, the mustache craze, the MyLittlePony cult, and why perfectly reasonable women are permanently gluing false eyelashes to their faces when mascara works just as well. Is this because smartphone futzing is even cutting into personal grooming time, so there isn’t a second to put on makeup? It is likely, given that it is estimated women in college spend 10 hours PER DAY futzing with their phones. What, praytell, were they doing with this 10 hours before?! If I’d done that in college, I might not have graduated. Memo to the cosmetics industry: smartphone futzing is cutting into downtime to futz with makeup–get on this!

Recently, I uncovered some clues about the eyelash gluing, which, by the way, is WAY more expensive than purchasing multiple types of mascara. The clues came through a video pitch I had to do for an E-Commerce course I took. I only had one day to prepare my video pitch from concept to upload. Working under assignment deadline pressure from my home office, I did not have any makeup or business attire on. So before I hit “record” I changed my clothing and put on some makeup. I wasn’t really thrilled with the final recorded result, but since I was on deadline with other responsibilities breathing down my neck, and since it was for a business class, not a performance class, I really didn’t stress it. I uploaded it and then had to watch the other student videos as part of the assignment.

That’s when it hit me.

As I watched the 20 year olds in my class give their pitches via webcams with perfect face, eyes, head, and perfect tilt of head to rival any actor, donning only their permanent false eyelashes, hair extensions and a hint of lip color, they were “selfie-ready”.

NOW I understand! Embedded lashes are the perfect accessory for embedding YouTube selfie videos!

Dare I say, and please forgive me beloved Sesame Street, Snuffleupagus, eat your heart out (and I and pray no un-authorized character comes after me in Times Square).

I realized then that makeup, even good, expensive makeup, does not READ on phone/webcams.

I was not “selfie-ready”.

Maybe I’m giving away a little-known, hard-won beauty secret here, but at age 50, I think the social commentary is more important than vanity. I first heard the term “selfie” in June 2013 during a visit with my esteemed colleague, and friend, Rev. Dr. Tami Coyne. I marveled at this pop culture term. We were JUST on the brink of selfie-nation taking over all of our lives, and Tami is always a step ahead of the times. Then the Oscars selfie happened. And here we are! There’s a current TV show titled “Selfie” and my hub bought himself a swanky new digital camera in time for my Big 50 party, which claims to be, yes, “selfie- ready” (it’s really not as we’ve since discovered after many attempts that have made us look more like Voldemort than “ourselfies” haha)

Personally, I still prefer my own eyelashes. They are long, but light, so I like making them longER and more defined with temporary mascara, sometimes even in different colors (yes, even at 50) and I LOVE washing it off at day’s end. But in the meantime, with the culture at large selfie-obsessed and immersed, I also realized that I’m the WORST selfie-taker ever, so I am now avidly practicing to be “selfie-ready always!” false, glued-on lashes or not. The above photo is a recent attempt which I call LeatheryLeoparySelfie–Study #1.

All aboard?

Hologram Homage: A Post-Catalysts DIY Post


I could not say farewell to CATALYSTS without a
Hologram Homage.

In this case, my dress is not McQueen but rather Hal Rubenstein (with dangling tags!) This course has been so personally catalytic, and I must thank the powers-that-be who afforded me a scholarship to it. When I received word that I was a scholarship recipient last October, I could not wait for Spring 2014 to arrive.

My excitement was fully realized throughout the course and especially upon my receipt of a Digital Badge from MoMA for successful completion of the CATALYSTS/MoMA course, as well as a personal note from Credly.   


Stay tuned as I continue to build on carolynartmedia!