Painter Gina Beavers produces fine art from the millions of pictures of Instagram
The New York and New Jersey-based painter talks us through her process, and why she thinks audiences resonate so much with her work.
- Joey Levenson
- 25 June 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
“I want my works to feel familiar from something people have experienced online, but I also want them to be recognised as high art,” Gina Beavers tells It’s Nice That. “Something pretty mundane from our online lives can also be serious art.” It’s a quote that perfectly summarises Gina’s internet-focused practice. Among the paintings of lips, food, and breasts, it may be easy to miss where Gina’s inspirations are coming from. But, a closer look reveals that they are intensely crafted and detailed recreations of popular images that circulate the internet – namely, Instagram. “As a painter, I feel I’m really tuned into the visual world normally, and I spend a lot of time looking at the world on my phone,” she says. “Memes, all of the unique photos people are able to take with this camera phone in their hands at all times, and selfie culture are all things I draw from.”
It’s not a usual source of inspiration for fine artists – especially painters – to draw from, but Gina makes it work with an acute eye for what makes a painting simply a recreation, and what makes it an artistic interpretation. Colours and 3D textures come alive on Gina’s canvasses, creating a sensory overload. As for how she creates such dynamic works, Gina says her process is changing all the time. “Right now I’m trying to get as much acrylic on panels lying horizontally, as quickly as possible so that they can begin to dry,” she explains. “Other times I’m putting final layers and pigments on the pieces vertically, once they are dry enough to be upright.” Using heavy, thick acrylic without pigment, Gina’s work tools are plastic knives and palette knives, which create the dense textures that permeate all of her visuals.
The paintings of phone camera food pictures, in particular, stand out and ring back to the early days of Instagram. “It’s less of a viral thing today, but they were once super popular,” she says. They evoke a strange retrospective of something not yet far enough in the past to be nostalgic, but something patently forgotten in the current cultural zeitgeist. “I still make food paintings, the hashtag #foodporn is still raging globally, it may be less edgy than it once was but there are 264 million pics there,” she adds. Evidently, Gina mines culture for images, but it’s not all an external process. “Often though the images I select and work from end up reflecting some aspect of myself,” she adds. “I think that’s an aspect of images online, they’re often about the self and the group at the same time.”
Her large pieces are created with “a layer of foam first, and then an acrylic layer over that,” she tells us. Interestingly, with her smaller works, Gina builds the acrylic in layers “so that they have dimension, but they are all paint,” she adds. Her series where she paints different famous works by Rothko and Georgia O’Keefe on her lips is one of these smaller works, and have become wildly popular on Instagram – the very platform these paintings once drew from in the first instance. It brings Gina’s mission back to a full circle, taking the very images that people once found worthy to share as an aspect of themselves, making them into fine art, and watching as people then continue to find themselves in those reflections.
We can expect to see Gina’s work soon at Frieze London in October 2021, and an upcoming show at the Neuer-Essener-Kunstverein in Germany also in autumn.
Gina Beavers: I Voted, photographed by Lance Brewer (Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. Copyright © Gina Beavers, 2020)