Olds artist repurposes cell phones, computer cables to create her own version of selfies

Renu Mathew ‘s Selfies exhibit at Red Deer’s Kiwanis Gallery runs to Feb. 19

“Disposable” selfies are reinterpreted using recycled materials in a new art exhibit at the Red Deer Public Library.

Olds artist Renu Mathew made her own version of head-and-shoulders images she found online using old cellphones, computer cables, and packing material, in her exhibit, Selfies, in the Kiwanis Gallery.

Her point was to highlight parallels between expendable self-photography and material things we trash because they have outlasted their usefulness.

She “appropriated” some selfies that were posted to Facebook. “I asked for permission to use them, and (the people who took the photos) said, ‘Sure, it’s not a big deal. They don’t care.’ ”

This ‘whatever’ attitude is typical — selfies are usually shared, then forgotten, said Mathew. Although they are shot without regard for longevity, like the plastic refuse that collects in our landfills, the self-images will live forever.

“These relics of our culture and humanity … leave a wasteland in the cyber world.”

Facebook pictures taken at a drunken party will be judged years down the road, she noted, by prospective employers, college registrars, or whoever else comes across them.

The artist has a fine arts degree from the University of Calgary, as well as a education degree, and has been teaching art at Olds High School for 17 years.Some of her subjects are former students — including Maddison, whose selfie was reinterpreted by Mathew using old CDs and computer cables. Some of the wires used to create the large green scarf wrapped around the subject’s neck, were taken apart to expose their aluminum casings. “She was studying for an exam with her headphones on,” explained Mathew, who feels computer cables help tell the visual story.

In Angela, a makeup artist was recreated with a backdrop of used cosmetic containers, while the image of Jaimie was painted on obsolete cellphones. “She’s a hi-tech person, so I like to show that,” said Mathew.

She also created three different blurred images of Karri using oil paint and shrink wrap. Karri is constantly changing her look, said Mathew. “She’s putting on a face, so we can’t really see who she is.”

The exhibit continues to Feb. 19 at the gallery operated by the Red Deer Arts Council.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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