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On Tuesday night, Karen Yankosky and Philippa Hughes uncorked a bottle of wine and settled in for an intimate chat about online dating in front of 40 people at Flashpoint Gallery. A live recording of their weekly podcast, “Women of Uncertain Age,” their guests were Dafna Steinberg and Jenny Walton, two of the three artists on view in the gallery’s current show, #thisiswhyimsingle. The exhibition explores aspects of digital dating from a distinctly straight female perspective, from self-branding and self-worth, to subpar come-ons and unmet expectations.
Walton’s “Match/Enemy” is an ongoing series of small watercolor renditions of men’s Tinder profile photos. They are arranged by those she matched with and those she didn’t (which apparently renders these unfit fellas “enemies”). Steinberg’s collage series, “I’m Willing to Lie About How We Met,” features retro, romantic cutouts of couples overlaid with iPhone chat bubbles that reveal comical exchanges drawn from the artist’s real Tinder conversations. Gentlemanly opening lines like “I have a thing for self-important fat chicks” and “I may not go down in history, but I’ll go down on you” are often met with Steinberg’s necessarily sarcastic responses.
Jennifer Towner, although not present for the podcast, is the third artist in #thisiswhyimsingle. Her installation, “Failed T-Shirt Designs for Today’s Modern Woman” includes plain white tees hung out on a laundry line display. Funny yet sincere self-effacing catchphrases like “Almost Desperate” and “Bitter Seeks Same” are brightly lettered on the shirtfronts.
The podcast interview largely revolved around Walton’s and Steinberg’s respective experiences as thirty-somethings diving into the cold, deep, shadowy pool that is app-based dating. Removed from the gallery setting, it would have sounded like your average brunch convo fodder. They rehashed what prompted them to take the Tinder plunge and shared insider tips—watch for the dude that only wears diapers in his profile pics and liven up boring swipe sessions by making a drinking game out of common sights (“take a shot every time you see a guy in a fedora!”).
“Is it always creepy online? Is it possible to be romantic?” Hughes asked the artists.
Looking just at Steinberg’s work with its laughably aggressive pick-up lines and wry retorts, it may seem like romance is far from single female reality in the virtual world. Walton’s painstakingly—almost lovingly—copied watercolors, however, suggest that it takes more than a passing glance (or swipe) to really see someone. And Towner’s T-shirts remind us that we all have our own shit to get past, too.