I met G. in a bar, and recognised her as the subject of a friend’s painting. At the time, I was dealing with the question of how well it was possible to know someone through the images they presented of themselves. I asked G. if I could reproduce images from her Facebook profile in my paintings, and she consented. As I began painting her images, I found myself becoming devoted to her the way one is to a media persona.
Previously, in my series The Lives of Others, I attempted to portray the essence of a social group through their images on Facebook. My frustration and failure led me to shift focus and paint a single individual’s images from the internet. For this purpose, G. was an interesting subject. At the time she was transitioning from male to female. I painted her as accurately as I could, and realised that although I could know the moles on her thigh intimately, I could not know her character.
This series is also an exercise in portrait painting in an age where it has lost its place to the selfie. In that first conversation with G. she mentioned that being portrayed by an artist in the past had given her such meaning, which is why she chose to become an artist’s model. Yet the lineage from portrait painting, portrait photography, all the way to the selfie has a common thread - that for human beings, portrayal makes you real and brings you worth and dignity.
As the series went on, I no longer had communication with her. I sent her an email here and there about the progression of the paintings. She never responded. Although I have a witness to her agreeing to my action, G. and two of her friends threatened legal action against me for copyright infringement of their Facebook images. One was a professional photographer who settled out of court.