Shannon Rednour



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Portrait painting as a convention has traditionally sought to discover through aesthetic technique some deep personal truth that defines the subject.  In the hands of a master, the soul of the subject is revealed in a way that real life––let alone photography––could never hope to capture. The portraits presented in ANONYMOUS SELFIE play with these conventions in startling new ways. Caught at the intersection of digital representation and photographic technology, contemporary sexuality and social media, ANONYMOUS SELFIE unveils a series of portraits whose inner meanings are provocatively elusive and whose depth is most profound when most superficial. 



The images in ANONYMOUS SELFIE, culled from the internet and gay hook-up sites, come out of the shadows of history to loudly announce their sexuality on social media mark a dramatic shift from one generation of gay men to the next. While early generations might have preferred to meet in tastefully lit bars or darkened public places, this new generation of gay men digitally circulate their portraits (naked bodies and recognizable faces alike) for the world to see. But as the oxymoronic title ANONYMOUS SELFIE implies, what is actually covered up by such brazen self-portraiture? 


Using the grammar of digital photography to construct these images, these paintings technically echo the questions posed by the subjects themselves. Reducing the graphic subject matter to a graph of color squares in the same way a computer creates images from pixels, the paintings highlight the ways we make sense (both physically and culturally) of images. At what point does the portrait actually reveal its subject? To what degree is the appearance of openness itself a form of deception? What is that fine line where the noise of social media suddenly shifts to reveal a single person?


In addition to the ANONYMOUS SELFIE collection, previous works by Shannon will be on display, including the following paintings.



Shannon Corbin Rednour first started painting while studying at the University of Missouri where he received his MFA in Design and Technology.  After working as a scenic artist and set designer in theater for several years, he made the transition to digital design, initially working in the art department for a game design company where he retouched artwork at the pixel level.  His transition from working on 50 foot wide canvases to 32 bit pixel illustrations began his decades long passion with digital imagery.  




Since the first time I zoomed into a digital photograph, I have been obsessed with the magic of pixel-based imagery. My early work as a scenic artist was informed by techniques of Georges Seurat who in many ways is the forefather of digital imaging.  Seurat remains a source of inspiration to me today, and much of my work involves transforming realistic, narrative digital imagery into something that's more artful and impressionistic.  I refer to my painting technique as "neopixelism", a reference to the neo-plasticism theories of Piet Mondrian, another important influence on my work.


What connects the subjects of my paintings to neopixelism varies.  My earlier paintings of industrial forms and New York skylines attempt to reveal the repetiveness, structure, and cubism that surround urban life.  For ANONYMOUS SELFIE I am interested in the ways today’s culture handles openness, privacy, sexuality and self-censorship. I have also been influenced by the evolution of anonymity that I have witnessed in my life as a gay man.


When I came out of the closet in the late 80's,  gay bars and cruising areas were underground and hidden.  The boldness of "living out loud" had not yet reached southern Arkansas where I grew up. Today, in many ways the culture has swung to the other end of the spectrum: openness is demanded.  Whether in social media or old-school media, the appearance of honesty and individuality, of the real person rather than a marketing construct is what people value, what they want to see.  Nonetheless, when it comes to sex, there continues to be a tension between the desire for honesty within the gay community and a fear of falling prey to societal sexual shaming.  


Recently, it feels like our culture has made a lot of progress toward the acceptance of individuals outside of the cultural norm.  We want to believe that we moved beyond certain aspects of judgment.   But within the openness of our online lives, risk continues to exist.  The negative feedback can come in the subtle form of rejection in online dating. It can appear in the more overt form of holding a job applicant responsible for a picture he posted when he was nineteen.  These paintings explore these tensions of performer versus audience, openness and risk, showing versus hiding.