Portraits in Landscape
Carla Gannis is fascinated by digital semiotics and the situation of identity in the blurring contexts of the physical and virtual. Her work is informed by art history, technology, cinema and speculative fiction, and she produces work using diverse mediums including video projection, digital painting, 3D printing, interactive installation, performance and net art. First and foremost, she is a storyteller, rooted in Southern Gothic and expanded into “Internet Gothic.” Gannis gives viewers a looking glass through which they can glimpse the pop sublime. Humor and absurdity are important elements in her process, and layers of historical reference are embedded in even her most future-focused works.
The process of collage and remix, central to Gannis’s artistic practice, combines and transforms dissimilar imagery from various historical and artistic movements to exist in the present as reflective, parodic and critical.
Portraits in Landscape is a video animation that exemplifies her signature process of remixing historical artworks with contemporary forms of communication, taking smartphone and selfie culture to the extreme. It depicts two separate figures in a twinkling landscape, each immersed in their smart phones and occasionally snapping photos.
The piece is inspired by the sixteenth-century mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, noted for his proto-surrealist portraits composited from images of animals, vegetables, flowers and books. Rather than static, organic objects, Gannis uses thousands of her own digitally painted emoji to compose her images. The work speaks to the hyper-real condition of inhabiting virtual and physical landscapes simultaneously, and its characters may seem uncannily familiar to viewers in Times Square.
“Portraits in Landscape, a single-channel video from my “After Arcimboldo” series, is a continuation of my focus on combining eccentric art-historical references with visual smartphone language. Through this process I reflect on the constructions and perceptions of identity in contemporary culture. Unlike the subjects of Arcimboldo’s paintings, the portraits in this series are not of aristocrats and wealthy patrons. Instead they began as 3D models, the avatars of our age, that I digitally shaped into selfie poses. I then overlaid the models with hundreds of emoji, similar to Arcimboldo’s process of using everyday objects to sculpt uncanny human likenesses. Bringing the portraits to life in a hyper landscape teeming with “digital nature” expresses my fascination with how virtual and physical embodiments intersect in our networked communication age.”
- Carla Gannis
“Times Square's history and present are saturated with technology and communication. We see it in the spectacular electronic billboards that compose our digital landscape, and in the hands of the millions of people who make it the second-most Instagrammed place in the world. Carla Gannis is an artist who is thinking deeply and playfully about the relationship between our smartphone culture and our nature. Exhibiting this work as a part of Midnight Moment closes the loop between the people on our plazas and our unique environment.”
- Andrew Dinwiddie, Times Square Arts
“Carla's sensational, delicious artwork transforms portraiture and nature by cross-pollinating them with the technologies that are changing the world. What better place to showcase this vision than Midnight Moment at Times Square, the Crossroads of the World!”
- Nina Colosi, Streaming Museum
Portraits in Landscape is presented as part of Streaming Museum’s international programming taking place in 2018-2019 to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
Carla Gannis (b. 1970, lives and works in New York City) received an MFA in painting from Boston University, and is faculty and the assistant chairperson of The Department of Digital Arts at Pratt Institute. Upon her arrival to New York in the 1990s, Gannis began incorporating digital elements into her painting-based practice. Since then she has eclectically explored the domains of “Internet Gothic,” cutting and pasting from the threads of networked communication, googleable art history, and speculative fiction to produce dark and often humorous explorations of the human condition.
Gannis’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and screenings, nationally and internationally. Recent screenings, commissions and solo exhibitions include “Sunrise/Sunset,” Whitney Museum of Art, NY; “Until the End of the World,” DAM Gallery, Berlin; “A Subject Self-Defined,” TRANSFER Gallery, Brooklyn; and “The Garden of Emoji Delights,” Hudson River Museum, Yonkers. Gannis’s work has been featured in press and publications including ARTnews, The Creators Project, Wired, FastCo, Hyperallergic, Art F City, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The LA Times. She has participated in numerous panels and workshops regarding intersections in art and technology, including “Let’s Get Digital” (2014), and “Artists’ Choice” (2016) both at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
In 2015 Gannis’s speculative fiction writing was included in DEVOURING THE GREEN:: fear of a human planet: a cyborg / eco poetry anthology, published by Jaded Ibis Press, and her augmented reality artist book The Selfie Drawings was awarded the Founder's Award from the 2016 Lumen Prize. Gannis is represented by Transfer Gallery, New York, and DAM Gallery, Berlin.
Streaming Museum was founded in 2008 by Nina Colosi as a public art experiment to produce and present exhibitions and programs of art, innovation and world affairs. Since then programs have reached millions on seven continents in public spaces, at cultural and commercial centers, and at streamingmuseum.org.
Harvestworks, founded as a not-for-profit organization by artists in 1977, has helped a generation of artists create new works using technology. Our mission is to support the creation and presentation of art works achieved through the use of new and evolving technologies. Our goals are to create an environment where artists can make work inspired and achieved by electronic media; to create a responsive public context for the appreciation of new work by presenting and disseminating the finished works; to advance the art community’s and the public’s “agenda” for the use of technology in art; and to bring together innovative practitioners from all branches of the arts collaborating in the use of electronic media. We assist with commissions and residencies, production services, education and information programs, and the presentation and distribution of their work.
Studio assistance: Rebecca Singer
Applications: MAYA 2017, DAZ Studio 4.9, Adobe After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator CC 2017
Photographs courtesy of Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.