Painter Working From Hot-or-Not Photos

7 March, 2005


Most likely, you've used Hot-or-Not, the strangely hypnotizing site that lets you rate the attractiveness of strangers and, if you choose, be rated in turn. A couple of years back it spawned a whole universe of copycats from Rate-my-Kitten to Rate-my-Poo and thus spent its flame in a brief flash of being the thing-of-the-moment.

Unlike the silliness of some of the copycat sites, Hot-or-Not remains compelling. The painter John Angelbeck captures some of what makes it so in his watercolors based on uploaded Hot-or-Not images, about which he says,

Each photograph submitted to the site was transformed from a household photo to a digital mating call, available to the world. I am intrigued by how each of these self-conscious images was chosen specifically for this purpose and how that purpose dictated what is found in each of them.

As always with artist statements, Angelbeck does not seem to get, or at least is not willing to say, what makes his work successful. What makes these images effective "digital mating calls" is also exactly what makes them pointed and often touching portraits: the way they capture the subject's world, a common one, which we also inhabit, while also picking out particular details that make the person specific and their humanity poignant. The velcro Addidas sandals or the 3.5 inch diskette on an otherwise bare carpet. The Insane Clown Posse flyer and google-eyed alien drawings on a background wall. While the commonalities of pose and mood of facial expressions may tell us something about the sociological fact of how people (or at least teen girls) try to best-represent themselves, it is these details that prick at our feelings bringing life to these distant and digitally-mediated self-portraits.



Anglebeck has no presence on the web that I can find. I discovered his work through New American Paintings, a jurried publication of contemporary painting by region.

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