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Curated and work by Masha Keryan.

Vanitas is a genre of still-life painting that flourished in the Netherlands in the early 17th century. The word “vanitas” comes from the Latin for vanity— closer to our meaning of “emptiness” than to the modern-day notion of narcissism. Vanitas emphasized the emptiness of worldly possessions and contained collections of objects that symbolized death and the fleetingness of life. Skulls, clocks, burning candles, and even soap bubbles could be found amongst decadent objects of wealth (jewelry, purses, and gold) that would be deemed empty or purposeless aspects of life.

In American culture today, Instagram gives vanity new meaning. We spend dozens of minutes on each photograph finding the perfect angle, perfect smile, a gracious hand gesture, or a natural looking fold in a shirt. Every time we curate an Instagram photo, we are arranging a still-life that portrays our ideal self. However, that self does not escape the momentary— it becomes an object. Just as everything King Midas touched turned to gold, everything we snap becomes simultaneously valuable and valueless, desirable yet mundane.

Instavanitas translates the opulence found in still-life painting and the spectacle of social media into an installation setting. Yerevan-born artist and curator Masha Keryan uses her unique perspective as an Armenian immigrant to capture the American millennial experience. Employing a mixture of traditional and contemporary mediums including oil paint, spray paint, Instagram photography, and performance, Keryan recreates the excessively spectacular world behind our screens. 

Written by Stace Brandt

Later Event: October 14