This piece was part of a series entitled “Currency of Beauty”. The series paintings are all based on internet selfies. Most of them are culled from the Facebook or Instagram accounts of the friends of my adult children. The images that interested me were of young women who were experimenting with beauty tropes in a playful, yet vulnerable way — the ones who were making a new currency, looking at themselves with curiosity, individuality and a willingness to be vulnerable.
I saw strength in these women. I did not see women sick with desire to be something else; rather, I saw women saying “this is me, and this is me, and this is me…and I am pretty damn cool.” Many of the women are very playful in their posts with costumes and makeup, constantly changing their look, experimenting….using the mirror of the world to figure out who they want to be.
I made these paintings as a way through my own struggle with aging and beauty, turning the corner into the second half of my life. I feel I am no longer willing or able to participate in the beauty game. Though I can do nothing about getting older, how do I resist feeling devalued as my beauty declines? The young women pictured here give me a new lens to see myself. They have given me the power to take back the male gaze, creating a new currency that we as women can control ourselves.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Wortham’s series, “The Currency of Beauty,” is her third body of work to focus on young women as they discover—and create—their own identities.
Wortham began painting during her undergraduate years at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she was a student of the late Jerry Rudquist. After completing her bachelor’s degree, Wortham worked as a designer, but continued to paint—often, with her children and their friends as subjects. In 2010, she entered the Painting and Drawing MFA program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying under T. L. Solien. Upon graduating in 2013, Wortham moved to Lowertown Lofts Artist Cooperative in St. Paul, MN.
While living in the Twin Cities she got involved in a number of community arts efforts including serving as the painting and drawing judge for the Minnesota State Fair art exhibition in 2017 and participating in the St. Paul Art Crawl for a number of years, winning both the poster contest and media contest in 2017.
Wortham now paints out of her woodland studio in Clam Falls, Wisconsin. Her work has been shown at the Catherine C. Murphy Gallery at St. Catherine University, the Duluth Art Institute, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, Keep Contemporary Gallery in Santa Fe, and Saatchi’s Other Art Fair in Chicago. She has received regional and national recognition from organizations such as the Minnesota State Arts Board, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the North American Graduate Art Survey, and the White Bear Lake Center for the Arts.
© Lizzie Wortham