WESTERLY — They're not exactly what comes to mind when you think of the word selfie, but they'll definitely grab your attention.
Wells Moore's selfies, which began as a therapeutic exercise, are not photographs, but paintings ... thought-provoking self-portraits that she creates daily. Most of them she does in pen, colored pencil or Aqaurelle crayons. She began painting them, she said, while she was still living in New York, as "a necessary mental, creative process."
Moore's selfies are compiled in a recently-released 65-page paperback book called, you guessed it, "Selfies," published by New London Librarium, a literary press in Hanover, Conn.
"They got me out of a depression and out of New York," said Moore one afternoon last week as she sat inside her apartment-cum-studio, the first floor of an old, white, three-story house close to downtown Westerly, which is chock-a-block full of posters, paintings and eclectic collections and objects ... like a red, white and blue auger.
"I'm a magnet for stuff people don't want," said the artist matter-of-factly as Elvis Presley tunes played in the background.
Soon after she began her daily routine, Moore began sharing her selfies on Facebook. The feedback, she said, was fascinating.
"I love the comments on Facebook," she said. "I love reading what people see in them ... and that they see how crazy I am."
Typically, she explained, she begins a self-portrait by asking herself: "What am I feeling today?"
"Then, poof, there it goes," she said. Some are based on dreams and some on realizations.
"Sometimes they'll take two sittings," said Moore. "I'll draw in ink first and then color it in the next time."
Moore, who moved to Westerly last year, was born in New Jersey, grew up in New Hope, Pa., studied art in Philadelphia (Moore College of Arts and Design), Switzerland (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel), and New York (School of Visual Arts). She has lived in The Bronx, Manhattan, Hanover, Conn., and Norwich, among other places.
She worked for 30 years as a freelance graphic artist in New York, and has worked at Home Depot (in doors and windows) and as a blackjack dealer at the Foxwoods Resort Casino. Then her friend and former neighbor, Glenn Cheney, the managing editor of New London Librarium, encouraged her to compile the paintings he calls "emotional portraits" in a book.
Cheney said, "The 'Selfies' title is ironic in that the portraits really express emotions — fears, dreams, obsessions, understandings — that are common to all of humanity. The purported self-portraits are really glimpses of all of us."
“I appreciate art," said Cheney in an email interview. "It’s very satisfying to give a good artist a new venue. The drawings in this book are a unique vision rendered with unusual skill. At one level, many seem like caricatures, but the more you look at them, the more depth you see in them. These images are visual and psychological gems."
Moore's selfies can be "disturbing and insightful," he said, "and sometimes comical in a self-deprecating way."
The pair are already at work on a second book.
"I never considered myself a painter," said Moore, whose collection of hand-painted posters featuring famous divas are hanging on the walls of her studio. "I painted ... but mostly posters."
A few years ago, inspired by one of her tenants, she began painting and hasn't stopped.
"A lot of them I'm proud of," she said. "A lot are horrible."
"But I have to paint," she added. "It's like therapy."
For more information about "Selfies," visit NLLibrarium.com/art.