Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Overcoming Displacement

We all have a cultural identity that is formed by family, community, country, and the world in which we live. Today, selfies aid in constructing identity by providing a new mode and venue for negotiating values, perceptions, and assertions. I present myself and my Latino identity via my selfies. I act both as artist and subject, allowing complete control of how my image is portrayed to the public. However, by removing my self-portraits from social media context to the gallery wall of the art world, I add permanence. Furthermore, my selfies draw on memory to construct identity, in that they record events, people, and places that are special to me. I am constantly taking self-portraits with my smart phone, alone or with my husband and my son, to instantly share on social media and remain connected with family and friends in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico.  The painted portraits intend to capture the interaction between my life here in Massachusetts and my bond to Puerto Rico, my birthplace.
The act of exploring the meaning and location of borders, boundaries, and zones of transitions is what theorist Homi Bhaba names as “In-betweeness” (Robertson, p178). My series #Inbetween2worlds aims to document the now easy transition between two places and how I have overcome displacement. Reaching for a deeper understanding of self directly correlates to the construction of my identity. As I pose for the selfie with my grandmother, I intend to take with me a memento and share it on Facebook. As I paint our self-portrait, I further celebrate, process, and savor that moment.  In my selfie portrait with my son we playfully pose in our winter attire, celebrating a sunny cold day to share with family back in Puerto Rico. In another selfie, I pose with my parka or with the exotic flower of the “Flamboyan” or Royal Poinciana tree. It may not be as obvious for my viewer to determine where I am, either here or there, but my desire is to allow the viewer to contemplate on who I am, what I value, and how I identify. Every portrait in this series evaluates, reevaluates, examines, and reexamines my personal experience.
Robertson, Jean & Craig McDaniel. Themes of Contemporary Art Visual Art after 1980. Oxford University Press. Pages 50&51, 80, 178 . 2010.

Monday, September 29, 2014

20 of my pieces will be on exhibition at 

Westfield University

Emilee’s Art Dream:  In Her Honor, an Exhibition for MS Awareness
Works by Emilee Dawn Gagnon, faculty, and artists affected by MS
October 24 – December 10
Reception:  November 6, 5:30-8 p.m.
Arno Maris Gallery

Sunday, September 21, 2014

#WhatLatinosLookLike Art Project

For my Art enthusiast. Do you want to be a part of my Thesis Art project? Send me your Selfie. 

Project completed

I recognize that the selfie trend is not just about narcissism or need for validation; I also see it as a platform for addressing important issues. Social media provides a forum for anyone to create awareness and express dislikes on any issues. For instance, I came across the hashtag, #WhatLatinosLookLike, which was provoked by the theory that Hispanics are identifying as white in larger numbers as part of a process of racial assimilation resembling that of Italian or Irish descendants: a theory that both the New York Times and Slate addressed in June 2014 (Benedetti, Huff Post).  These articles may aim to point at the possibility of an evolving self-identity or benefit associated with being identified with a specific group.  #WhatLatinosLookLike prompts the viewer to reflect on self-identity while making visible that Latinos are diverse in skin color. In order to engage in this issue, I interacted with strangers and responded to their selfies on Twitter. I take pride in identifying as Latina; therefore I joined strangers on Twitter to take part in displaying the diversity within Latinos. 

While painting the portraits of fifteen of the participants, some of whom identified as Mexican-Greek, Chicano Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican-Mexican-Polish to Cuban-Ecuadorian, I was able to slow down and think about these individuals in the process of undoing stereotypes and showcasing diversity. I sifted through hundreds of selfies posted on Twitter, and selected ones that I felt displayed diversity, in terms of age, ethnicity, skin tone, profession, or religious preference. As shown above, on the left the subject tagged his images as Argentine, PorteƱo, with Jewish, Ukrainian and Polish roots; while subject on the right tagged his as AfroRican, having African and Puerto Rican roots. I painted portraits from these appropriated selfies as a means of making connections in our shared identity. My series #WhatLatinosLookLike allowed me to demonstrate diversity within the Latino community and casually attempt to describe the complexity within it. Painting from images that are inherently informal and impermanent, I created an archive: my own record of these images that became more permanent than in digital form on social media networks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


My experience with displacement gave way to the creation of the #Murrieta. In this “selfie conversation” I address the immigration crisis in this country, and more specifically reference the events that took place in California this summer. On July 1, 2014 Murrieta became a flashpoint in the immigration crisis when protestors blocked the road to prevent three buses transporting 140 migrant woman and children from entering the town (Fieldstadt, NBCNews.com). Instagram and Twitter users posted selfies while observing the people protest and supporting the transfer by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Angered by what was taking place, and feeling empathetic to those women and children whom must have been terrified, I selected images from the protest. Once again, I found selfies that move beyond narcissistic tendencies and showed a political stance to create change. The series #MuerrietaProtest sheds light not only on the event that occurred on July 2014, but also the participation of people who voiced their opinion in a greater sense. In Figure 11 (above), the participants of the self-portraits hold a sign near their faces making visible identifying with its message. Even though we cannot read the sign, it is evident that they are participating and taking action in a protest. These images have more contextual clues about the issues of identity and activism than the series #Iamhere or #WhatLatinosLookLike.