Emma Gelbard’s art is weird — “in a good way,” the Roslindale resident says. On Instagram, as @emmagelbard, the 25-year-old shares that art: a combination of abstract portraits, sketches and line drawings, some of which are on display at the Ruckus Pop-Up Gallery in Fenway, through Sunday. Gelbard spoke with the Globe to offer her take on the creative process, works in progress, and the art of the Instagram selfie.
Q. Describe your creative process.
A. I usually try to start with some kind of plan, but then I try to not limit myself to that plan, because it’s really hard to start something from nothing. A lot of the time, I’ll make something bad on purpose, because sometimes it’s easier to tell what you like if you have something to go against.
I’m making a painting while I’m at the Ruckus Pop-Up Gallery [in Fenway, through July 30] right now, and I’ve never had a painting be public from its very beginning to the end, through all of its awkward, ugly stages. That’s been really interesting, because I’ve been getting feedback from other artists and the general public as I work on it, which is sort of like posting a progress shot on Instagram and asking for comments. I don’t usually do that because it makes me nervous, but I think it’s good for me.
Q. You have a pinned Instagram story featuring some of those works in progress. Do you ever post those to get new ideas or feedback?
A. I mostly post those because I really love when other artists post those. Sometimes people message me based on my story, so that can be really rewarding — or it can be pressure if people like something that I’ve already messed up. But for the most part, I post it to get feedback, and because I’m grateful when other artists let me see their process, and I feel like it’s good to pay that forward.
Q. Do you usually aim more for technical accuracy when you’re painting yourself, or do you take some liberties with that?
A. I‘ve been trying to get away from just being technically accurate, because I think it’s getting boring for me. I used to work from actual photo selfies and from the mirror a lot more, but it’s been more interesting to take liberties and to try to get the meaning of a piece more accurate than just the base image.
Q. Are self-portraits your version of the Instagram selfie?
A. Absolutely. I think that selfies are just a really interesting phenomenon that’s not at all limited to the new millennium. I studied art history in college, and that program did a lot of work with self-portraits and portraits that people commissioned of themselves — not direct self-portraits, but still kind of a selfie.
Selfies are important as a way to represent who you are, and Instagram makes that accessible to everyone. I think that selfies are a way for people to take back agency over how their image gets put out in the world. I have something on my Instagram that’s also up at Ruckus — the real name is “Lay Eyes on Me,” but the photo on my Instagram is a picture of the painting reflected in the mirror, with all these other selfies reflected behind it. I was thinking about how people take selfies in the bathroom, which is this really private space, but then they post them on the Internet, which is this really public space. That’s such a reclamation of control over the ways that the 21st century has made all of this private stuff public.Interview was edited and condensed. Kaya Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Kaya_Noelle.