Emoticanon, 2012

As series of digital images, the piece explores our changing definitions and portrayals of the human and the emotional in the digital age. Its title, Emoticanon, is a portmanteau of “emoticon,” a representation of a facial expression made using various letter and symbols, usually reserved for texting or messaging on a computer or phone, and “canon” defined as a group of art works which are judged to be of the highest quality, setting the standards by which others are judged.

Emoticons are both textual and visual, they are read and viewed at the same time. The use of an emoticon, whether serious or in jest, is generally to provide emotional context in an otherwise impersonal format. Emoticons are oddly powerful tools in our culture, providing a humanoid context in an otherwise digital setting.
 
In the instance of Emoticanon, the emoticons have been placed over details of faces from famous portraits throughout art history. The emoticons provide a new context to the paintings that appear, and disappear, underneath the enlarged outlines of the text. While many of the paintings are still recognizable, the emoticons obscure key parts, usually leaving the eyes and mouths visible and emphasizing new formations of positive space in the otherwise blank canvases. While they can be contextualizing in a short written message, emoticons lack the nuances of say, a detailed study of one's face. By layering the emoticon and portrait, interpretation must work through both cultural icons and the ways in which they clash, or work, with each other.

Portraits include:
 
     Giotto, “Madonna and Child Enthroned”
     Botticelli, “Birth of Venus”
     Rembrandt, “Self Portrait 1659”
     Vermeer,“Girl with a Pearl Earring”
     Manet, “Olympia”
     Van Gogh, “Self Portrait 1889”
     Picasso, “Portrait of Dora Maar”
     Warhol, “Marilyn”
     Close, “Big Self Portrait”