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Petra Cortright On Selfies, Sensationalism, and Being Stella McCartney's Muse

Petra Cortright On Selfies, Sensationalism, and Being Stella McCartney's Muse

Picture of Jill Di Donato
Fashion Editor
Updated: 16 March 2017
There’s no singular way to define Petra Cortright. Artist, digital pioneer, muse to Stella McCartney, the Monet of the 21st Century, (according to Artsy) lover of technology, but a rebel against many of its incarnations. She’s also a rebel against the constraints of punctation and grammar, as you’ll see when reading the answers to her interview questions, which she sent to me via email.

Represented by San Francisco’s Ever Gold [Projects], which also represents Petra Collins, Cortright is a young artist coming into her own at an interesting space where fashion and art intersect.

Jill Di Donato: How do you identify as an artist?

Petra Cortright: i just say im an artist, sometimes i say net artist because its just weirder to say and people have no idea what im talking about. sometimes i say im a painter, like if im on an airplane or something, explaining what i do to people who dont know a lot about art, they can wrap their head around it more. one time i said i was a computer watercolorist to try and end the conversation quicker about what i do for a living – it worked >:)

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Petra Cortright, “Zero Day Darling”, 2016. Installation view, Ever Gold [Projects]

JDD: How do you see the evolution of the selfie over the past five years? How does this incarnation of the selfie compare, in your opinion, with self-portraiture dating back to the early 1800s?

PC: to me this is a big difference. ive always seen my work as more self-portrait than selfie, because it has a lot to do with the whole setting and ive tried to make it as little about me or my body as possible.  but because it was done with technology or whatever its amazing that if you do anything with technology how quickly people dont understand and they just try to lump everything together into a weird category…

a selfie is a somewhat surface level*** snapshot / somewhat constricted angle / can switch out any person into the background, many people making the same image over and over and over again because its all on the same smartphone, and it largely focuses on the body and the ego.

self-portrait is an image that captures a certain time place mood and evokes emotion and provides a unique view that only that person is capable of presenting. it has much to do with the place as it does with the setting.

***no shade to selfie anything i just find that there are restrictive elements to it and because of the close proximity of the image or angles it can feel repetitive, that being said there are a lot of artists that have figured out how to work with this medium in unique ways which is very difficult and props to them

and of course there is crossover between both selfie and self portrait.. but i do think they are two different things…

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Petra Cortright, “Zero Day Darling”, 2016. Installation view, Ever Gold [Projects]

JDD: Talk about your collaboration with Stella McCartney. How did the collaboration come about? McCartney has said that you embody the next generation of Stella McCartney style. What is that style, in your mind?

PC: she contacted me in 2013 and from there we had an initial meeting where we agreed we just wanted to see what would happen naturally and not force anything and we started working together from that frame of mind. stella has a sense of humor and i think she likes to work with people that do as well. its really beautiful clothing but it never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously. there are moments of silliness and fun.

JDD: What do you wear to feel beautiful?

PC: soccer jerseys or pajamas or bathing suit while swimming in the ocean or sweatpants or rainboots.

JDD: What statement does your art make about pop culture? And in your opinion, how is pop culture getting it right and how is it getting it wrong? (By it, I mean the cultural zeitgeist.)

PC: i dont really care about pop culture… i care a lot about nature, i care a lot about technology, and i think the work has to do more with that.

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Petra Cortright, “Zero Day Darling”, 2016. Installation view, Ever Gold [Projects]

JDD: Do you see YouTube as a video streaming platform with social components, or do you see it as a social channel with video streaming components? And can you talk a little about your relationship with YouTube and how it helped launch your career?

PC: youtube really sucks now, actually its sucked for a long time. they censor everything and its both fascist and boring. i remember 10 years ago it was promising, but that is a long time ago, in internet years. the whole internet has gone this way, im not a huge fan of the current state of the internet right now. a lot of the early promises of diversity and communication have failed and morphed into kind of some nightmare shit.. fake news… whatever

JDD: How do you see the intersection of art and fashion evolving at the moment?

PC: i mean its really always gone hand in hand, come on. i think they have both always been inspired by the other, i think the best designers always have deeply cared and paid attention to art and vice versa. the biggest separation between the two ive noticed is time. fashion moves incredibly fast, art is much slower.