Nick Bilton writes about social media in his New York Times “Disruptions” column. He states that “numerous reports estimate that 18- to 34-year-olds spend as much as 3.8 hours a day on social media. These days 35- to 49-year-olds don’t fare much better, racking up 3 hours a day on social sites.”
While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are important mainstays for many, especially the millennials, painter N. Dean Christensen has chosen to portray the humorous side of social media. As the self-titled “Millennial Man,” the 23 year-old reflects on society’s selfie preoccupation. “As a millennial,” he explains, “I aim to simultaneously embody and expose the excesses of my generation by creating a variety of works that emphasize the ridiculousness of it all, while challenging the viewer to question his or her own perceptions and perspectives.”
Christensen does this primarily by blowing up his photographic self-portraits to huge proportions. “I love painting big; it gives me more freedom. I’d say I take a sculptural approach to [my oil on canvas] painting. Darks come first, then I build up the lights. I fell in love with painting; I did sculpture in high school then decided to do painting in college. Some are flat … to pay homage to Byzantine painters.”
As the subject, it ain’t always pretty. He’s become a master of the double-chinned, self-proclaimed “ugly selfie” (“I have a selfie stick but haven’t used it.”). His newest paintings show him with blonde hair, a recent development. He says he’s going through “a blonde phase; blond is huge with high fashion and rappers” right now.”
“I like painting faces,” Christensen says, laughing. “Me and my friends in the past had made these shirts with our faces all over them as a joke. I realized there is a body of work that has potential there. I always love being the funny guy. A face on a shirt, that’s absolute narcissistic. My generation grew up with social media and the selfie — studies show millennials are the most narcissistic of the generations.”
Along the way, he has branded himself “Deansace” (a take-off of Versace) with clothing (t-shirts, hoodies and tank tops) and music.
While he is using humor to make a point, he takes what he’s saying seriously. “Most people I know feel pressure to [keep] up with their social media profile. People want to post something to get the most likes. They are morphing into what people think [they] should be. I’m trying to embody the excesses … in order to challenge [them]. Social validation; there’s a positive side to it. Our generation is the test of social media, what will work and what won’t.”
His solo exhibition “THE MILLENNIAL MAN: Me, My Selfie and I” at Galerie Hertz will showcase 17 of his paintings. During the opening reception on Sunday, Jan. 17 at 1-4 p.m., Christensen will present a fashion show accompanied by his music. At many openings, it’s sometimes difficult to pick out the artist in the crowd. I don’t think you will have a problem this time.