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Unreal World

This is the fourth installment of my CONTRAST series.

In "Unreal World" (originally titled "Pixel Person"), I'm thinking about the contrast between in-person connections and interactions online. We get into arguments with other accounts, not realizing we are arguing with an AI program, a bot, or a fake account whose sole purpose is to create controversy. We use filters to improve our appearance, trying to compete with others online who are also photoshopping their appearance.

Even the people we know in person often present a different face to the world online. They post images to look like they're on top of the world and brag about being hashtag-blessed when we know they're really struggling.

But on the other hand, who can blame anyone for trying to focus on the positive? What's the point of putting more negativity out into the world? I'm an artist who wants to add beauty to the world; I don't begrudge people for putting themselves in the best possible light. The difference is, when I read a fairy tale or watch a sci-fi movie or view a painting, I know it isn't real. It isn't packaged and marketed as actual real life. And the pressure one puts on themselves to be perfect online could lead them to avoid getting help when they need it.

A bigger problem is when a company's business model (like Facebook or Twitter) relies on controversy, outrage and division in order to make money. And when lies are dressed up as facts. Made-up arguments, started by bots, turn into real arguments between humans, and that can lead to destructive actions in the real world.

At this point, I don't fully believe anything I see on social media, even when it's posted by my own friends. I view it more like fan fiction, or a creative writing workshop. Or a call to investigate further. There may be a grain of truth in there, like a clever metaphor. But the fictional world of social media can never be taken at face value.

I pieced strips of colored fabric and used a grid pattern in the quilting lines, as a reference to pixels. The face was created by bits of black fabric* and hand-guided stitches in black, white and gray. The portrait is meant to be a good approximation of my face, but clearly not a full picture.

Finished size 40x30in

Hand dyed batiks and commercial fabric

Machine piecing and applique, hand-guided machine quilting

*Here is an enhanced photo to show the black fabric, which is printed with text. I thought it worked perfectly with the idea of creating a persona using only hyper-positive, aspirational quotes.


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