The ability to have flattering photos taken of oneself is privilege – with class, social, and cultural implications, dating back to the origin of portraiture. Selfies are emblematic of the early 2000’s rapid growth in social media and smart phones. To take a Selfie is to take back that power, especially for individuals marginalized by society. The artist recreates mirror selfies taken by sex-workers and self-positive females from various online platforms that have fallen under the radar of April 2018 US Senate and House bill SESTA/FOSTA.
Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) claims to punish traffickers, instead creates obstacles for legitimate online business, making it harder for consensual sex workers to make a living. Others argue it threatens online speech. The repercussions of SESTA/FOSTA are felt today in many online communities such as Backpage, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr.
Consensual nude mirror selfies are continually censored or removed without the poster’s permission, revealing the hypocrisy of “free speech” in the US. Selfies and self expression is power. It is also a means to an end for sex workers.
Dismissal of “frivolous” trends such as Selfies reveal deeper societal contempt for women. In these paintings, the artist praises the bravery of loving, accepting, and at times, monetizing, one’s body in the age of social media.