Melissa Huang’s glitch-inspired painting and video self-portraiture studies the desire, failure, and dissonance of portraying an idealized self for a physical and digital audience. Adopting a perfect girl persona has never been easier; however, the bodily and emotional roles that society expects women to fulfill have never been further out of reach.
Like many, Huang tries to embody a person-shaped daydream of the self. She knows what she should be, what she wants to be. A perfect version is always just around the corner. She can catch a glimpse of this version, or sometimes feels it slipping from her fingertips. This version is uninhibited, wild, beautiful, everybody’s best friend. She’s an exquisite flicker on a screen.
The non-daydream version of the self is foggier. She cries, worries, and obsesses. She projects success but never fully enjoys it. She’s learning to love herself, but it’s harder than she thought.
Huang finds herself questioning the objective reality of her own body: is a purely representational painting version of herself more authentic than an abstracted and amorphous body cloud? Is she capturing the daydream in unrestrained washes of color, shape, and movement, or something closer to reality?
A different version of the self exists in the minds of our family, friends, colleagues, strangers, and digital audience; none of which fully encapsulates one’s complete identity. Rather, each of these fragments come together to paint a fuller picture of “you.” We form our identities through the Sartrean act of looking at others, being looked at, and understanding that we are the subject of “the look.” Contemporary culture is obsessed with perfection, and digital image manipulation has blurred the lines between reality and the idealized self, creating an unsettling gap between who we really are and how we wish to be perceived.
In recent work, Huang considers how those of us coming of age with the internet and social media have constructed alternative identities online—fantasies, really—that bear little resemblance to the person IRL. Huang transforms her image beyond believable authenticity: it is fragmented, replicated, and distorted to the point of becoming disconnected from her real body. Ultimately, she uses this series of works to dismantle the complicated archetypes to which women must conform in our ever changing cyber landscape.
The work utilizes traditional oil painting techniques with a focus on direct painting and limited glazing, and Huang uses a wide range of hyper-saturated color throughout to give character to each fragmented portrait and to reference the glitched feeling of being deconstructed online and IRL. Washes of color create small windows to another world. She repeats and layers her self-portrait on the canvas to represent multiple versions of the self and the emotional push and pull she feels between them.
Installation photography: Mike Jensen
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Melissa Huang (b. 1992) is an interdisciplinary artist living in Statesboro, Georgia, where she is an Assistant Professor of Art at Georgia Southern University. Melissa attended the Ernest G. Welch School of Art & Design at Georgia State University for her MFA in Drawing and Painting (2021) and the Rochester Institute of Technology for her BFA in Fine Arts Studio (2014). Melissa has exhibited nationally and abroad with recent solo exhibitions at the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art (2021) and the Albany Museum of Art (2022). Melissa has a background working in galleries, museums, archives, and art appraisal. She is represented by whitespace gallery.