The images presented here belong to two different projects where I explore the topic of self-representation. While in “El Pertenecer en Tiempos Modernos” I engage with notions of online self-representation and examine social media platforms in “The Constructed Self” I engage with ideas of social construction of identity and reality.
Belonging is intrinsic to our humanity and integral to our understanding of ourselves. While the need for community transcends time, the means to develop one’s “tribe” has transformed from the physical to the digital realm and has subsequently impacted how we view ourselves in this interconnected world. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, that value the visual image above all, have altered our sense of self and the very mechanisms for how we develop our external and internal identities and to which groups we belong.
El Pertenecer en Tiempos Modernos (Belonging in Modern Times 2019) explores social media platforms and examines their role in how we present ourselves, as well as how we externally validate our identity online. Inspired by the Cubist investigation of materiality and perspective, I create collaged portraits of subjects who utilize these platforms as a way to amplify the layers distancing the subjects’ authentic selves from their constructed selves—underscoring the mutability of identity in the digital age. The individuals photographed were selected by an open call on social media platforms and were asked to wear a specific color clothing based on the colors of the logo of the social media they contacted me from. Embossed on the paper are the words of popular hashtags. Acting as an invisible tattoo, these words are aspirational, a call to wear the seal of the virtual tribe you wish to belong to.
The Constructed Self (2020) is an extension of my ongoing exploration of the topic of self-representation in El Pertenecer en Tiempos Modernos (Belonging in Modern Times 2019).
I depart from stereotypical photographic portraits of subjects to render them through constructive and deconstructive methods. To disrupt photography’s flat, two-dimensional surface I cut and reassemble the images to build sculptures and collages. I use photography as the basis for the three-dimensional objects as a means to challenge our visual perception. Often implying that identity is, in fact, a social construct while also engaging with notions of existentialism.
Karen Navarro is an Argentine-born multidisciplinary artist currently living and working in Houston. Navarro works on a diverse array of mediums that includes photography, collage, and sculpture. Her image-based work centers around the topic of identity. Trained as a fashion designer and photographer, Navarro studied at the University of Buenos Aires and completed the certificate program in photography at Houston Center for Photography. Her constructed portraits are known for the use of color theory, surreal scenes and minimalist details. In 2018, Navarro was the recipient of the Glassell School of Art scholarship from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and most recently she has received the Artadia fellowship 2019. Navarro’s work has been exhibited in the US and abroad. Selected shows include Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), USA; Galerija Upuluh, Zagreb, Croatia; Lawndale Art Center, Houston, USA; Elisabet Ney Museum, Austin, USA; Melkweg Expo, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Houston Center for Photography, Houston, USA; and Museo de la Reconquista, Tigre, Argentina.