"I call them 'Moments of Self,' but they're really just selfies," painter Torri Smith says, laughing. Her first-ever solo exhibit, a show she's titled Constructs of Romantic Discord, is an amalgam of these moments, a peek into the inner psyche of a young millennial woman.
Smith, a recent Lawrence Technological University graduate, works as an architect in downtown Detroit at a firm called Rossetti. The 27-year-old often finds herself navigating the emotional and stressful dimension of social media, despite her success as a burgeoning professional and her passion for painting.
Though Smith says the show is a culmination of a year of classes at College for Creative Studies and two subsequent years of painting, a new friendship was the catalyst that brought everything to a head.
"My friend Leah, her personality really developed the show," Smith says. "I met her about six months ago, and she is very emotional and watching her suffering from the stress of social media really inspired me."
The show is comprised of two parts: The first being an inward journey that all young people face when they seek to "find themselves," as well as the private moments we hide from the world. The second is a commentary on the way we curate social media and the construction of a self-image that might not totally reflect reality.
"Half the paintings are about the moments unseen and self-reflection," Smith says. And the other half are a meditation on lessons learned from friends, especially through social media use.
"All of these paintings are of girls I'm really close with," Smith says. "Every girl I chose to paint, I found admirable in some way. They all have a strength."
In an age when young women are often considered vapid, materialistic, and clueless, the selfie often serves as a representation of the generation's self-absorbed nature.
"Selfies have a negative connotation," Smith says. "But I think it's really beautiful, sharing these moments with social media, a moment when you felt truly beautiful. It shows vulnerability and can also be a little bit stressful."
And that's where the term "moments of self" comes in. Because behind the facade and the filters is often a woman who's waiting for the validation of a "like" on Facebook or heart-eyes emoji on Instagram, as sad as that can seem.
"In these paintings I want you to see the suffering of waiting for a reply that may never come," she says. "Social media influences you in so many ways."
Because these ways of communication are the new normal, Smith hopes the show will create an awareness of the artifice of social media.
"What I would like viewers to take away is simply an awareness of the influence we have over each other as individuals. What we see is often curated; whether it's a photo, or a status, or a post can be up for interpretation and it's hard to really gauge the real meaning and true intentions," Smith says in a press release. "I would love people to leave the show feeling inspired, and I hope it sparks a deeper conversation about personal connections, inner feelings, and how we go about interacting throughout our daily lives."
Constructs of Romantic Discord will be open at the DCDT Gallery located at 4219 Woodward Ave., Detroit from July 10 through August 2. An opening reception will be held on July 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. Entry is free and the exhibit is open to the public.