My Sparkling Self

Project by Ellen Carey

Elen Carey, My Sparkling Self, Ellen Carey Photography

My Sparkling Self takes visual and conceptual cues for the project’s centerpiece from one of the first instant “selfies” (1977), a series of six Polacolor self-portraits by (and of) Ellen Carey, combined with “glitter” nail polish on each surface. This “sparkle” pre-dates the current “glitter” cultural vogue of beauty products (Revlon, Maybelline, Chanel, MAC) found in a rich range of brands whereby nails and the wearer’s polish are individualized.

Ellen Carey Dancing in a Sparkling Dress
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1979

The final results are micro-canvases of art, expressions of the “self” that transcend and overlap most global demographic boundaries of class, race, gender, country, economics, religion, and politics, allowing for highly unique, human articulation. With a content-laden history located in body decoration, from tribal times to the present, the “sparkle” revolution will link peoples, places and cultures through its focus on our collective imaginative “selves” and underscored by the accessibility of beauty through “glamour” — ­ it is everywhere and it is now — from nail salons to high-end stores. 

My Sparkling Self merges high and low art by way of the then new Polaroid “instant” technology as it interconnects with experimentation, color and photography, while highlighting Carey’s prescient vision of the widely popular “selfie” phenomenon. In her series each image is approximately the size of today’s cell phone, hence contextually the project would collaborate with social media via the mobile phone — specifically Samsung’s Galaxy, the exhibition’s corporate sponsor, in partnership with Polaroid SX-70 film of Impossible Mission, another sponsor — to create a “sparkling selfie” and/or group portraits of “glitter selfies.”

Using both Galaxy, with its association to the stars in the universe, and the adoptive cell-phone mini-lab of Impossible, the exhibition visitor becomes an artist and/or collaborator with other visitors, to create instant SX-70 artworks, to later apply “glitter” nail polish supplied by beauty and/or department store sponsors. To add “sparkle” to the “self” celebrates our uniqueness, while sharing it with others through creativity, as a life- affirming, joy expressed throughout a diverse population. 

Sparkling Wall — an installation — represents the end goal with an extraordinary palette of rainbow color; the exhibition’s design reflects photographic color theory as the primary additives (RGB) and their opposites, the primary subtractives (YMC). The traditional formula reads as RGB=YMC, underscoring photography and color. The project links to the history of body decoration and self-portrait in photography, the ever-changing aesthetics of beauty across time and the fast-pace, information highway of technology to act as the game-changer, in tandem with Samsung’s Galaxy and Impossible Mission’s col-lab with its instant, new color SX-70. All contribute to the exhibit’s success; visitors can draw outlines of each other/themselves and/or put their own image(s) of a sparkling self on the installation wall, against a lively backdrop of colors.  

Ideally, My Sparkling Self exhibition would take place around holidays that “sparkle”— Fourth of July and Christmas — with a book and a tour, to include other artists who used glitter (Andy Warhol, Lynda Benglis, Samuel Jablon, Nancy Graves, John Torreano) in an exhibit as it travels around the globe to other destinations — Tate Modern, (London); Centre Pompidou (Paris); MoMA (New York); the Tokyo National Museum (Japan); other cities with the Polaroid 20 X 24 camera too

Music, like photography and color, are universal languages. To add content to context, a music program (or film, poetry, lectures, book readings) could be added of “happy” music (i.e. Pharrell Williams) for a “happening” to take place (“Color Me Real”) at the exhibition. The infinity symbol (∞), a picture sign and metaphor for timelessness and unity, seen as a rainbow roll of colors, could be the brand icon referencing the double “S” in Samsung

Samsung ( as well as the “S” in SX-70 in instant photography, represented by Impossible Mission (; the “S” in “selfie” and “sparkle” representing the individual plus the shiny, glittering polish (other make-up eyes/hair and other art materials/glitter flakes).

Exhibition and Project: Scholarship and Sponsors:

Samsung Corporation (worldwide): Galaxy smart phone
Impossible Mission (the Netherlands): SX-70 film, camera and co-lab
Beauty/Nail Polish (worldwide) Revlon, Maybelline, MAC, Chanel Glitter
Products: Art Stores – nation/worldwide
Music: Jennifer Lopez, Sony, Jay-Z/Beyoncé/Pharrell Williams/DJ
Book: Taschen, Prestel, Aperture (Cover in Sparkle/Glitter)
Support: Knight Foundation, NEA, Andy Warhol Foundation, Tremaine Foundation, Creative Capital, local arts organizations, private individuals

Copyright 2015 © by Ellen Carey