A faceful of emoji

Emoji infest the Art Wall in the Hunt Library, thanks to the work of visual storyteller Carla Gannis. Her video animation, Portraits in Landscape, is a remix of smartphone and selfie culture with the pre-Surrealist work of 16th-century painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who created portraits out of arrangements of images of animals, vegetables, flowers, and other common objects.

In Gannis’ work, which debuted in Times Square in August, thousands of her own digitally painted emoji comprise her images. “I reflect on the constructions and perceptions of identity in contemporary culture,” Gannis writes of her work. “Unlike the subjects of Arcimboldo’s paintings, the portraits in this series are not of aristocrats and wealthy patrons. Instead they began as 3D models, the avatars of our age, that I digitally shaped into selfie poses. I then overlaid the models with hundreds of emoji, similar to Arcimboldo’s process of using everyday objects to sculpt uncanny human likenesses. Bringing the portraits to life in a hyper landscape teeming with “digital nature” expresses my fascination with how virtual and physical embodiments intersect in our networked communication age.”

Gannis visited the NCSU Libraries in March as part of the “Making Space” series of public talks, workshops and programs that center on gender diversity and inclusion in STEM. Originally from Oxford, North Carolina, Gannis is now based in Brooklyn. She works in a variety of media including digital painting, animation, 3D printing, drawing, video projection, interactive installation, performance, and net art. Her artwork—such as The Garden of Emoji Delights, in which she reconstructs Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych with emoji—has received widespread attention.