The Selfie: A Physical-Digital Hybrid of the Human Face

Artist Statement

In my work, I considered the potentially “good” places and communities of the Internet, as opposed to its frequently discussed dark sides and digital vortexes. These distorted faces speak to the dual nature of digital engagement. For each face, I considered the visual symbolism of the selfie, reminding us of our contradictory existence in a hybrid world of physical and virtual spaces. The floating faces in my work are supported by blurred, dripping backgrounds. Holistically, each composition represents the physical-digital hybridity as well as the power of online communities to support individuals, particularly those who face stigmatization and marginalization in offline spaces.

By dissociating from their offline identities and sharing vulnerable information online, individuals may gain a sense of freedom that they lack in offline spaces, signified by the uninhibited movement of some faces within the canvas. In contrast, the singular, more static faces are “exposed” with harsh light, revealing both the flimsiness of online anonymity and the isolation that can result from an overreliance on online communities.

More generally, I am interested in the human face as a vehicle of emotion and narratives, communicated by a person’s wrinkles, mannerisms, sunspots, and scars that inevitably develop with age. I recruited the faces of various close friends and family members to create these paintings. While I know all of these people deeply, I was most interested in my ability to render them anonymous to both myself and my audience. This led to an array of floating heads that, like anonymous online spaces, capture—and then distort—our orientation toward knowing and being known by other people.

Sophia Maggio is a senior undergraduate from Everett, WA, studying psychology and art with a minor in leadership studies at Gonzaga University. Her work is strongly influenced by her family, friends, experiences with psychology research, and visual interest in the human face and figure. After graduating, she will work in Philadelphia as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), and intends to continue painting, drawing, and writing during and after her time with JVC.