Selfie Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Camilla Webster
By Camilla Webster


Walking into the Soho Grand on the way up the elevator, I find myself looking at, well, myself. An installation stares at me with the neon words, “This is a Self Portrait.” I am tempted to take a picture in the mirrored work by Tapp Francke.

It’s the opening night of her show, in the place I usually seek out a great bloody mary. Now, I notice art is everywhere; Tapp’s art. I’m going to take a picture. Of course I feel like a narcissist hung up in the selfie universe, but I can always rationalize this by reminding myself, this is art. It is art. It’s something to share immediately. Maybe there’s even art in that.

Head up to the gym and there are two pieces that feature motivational words: “I think I can, I think I can” and “YOU CAN DO IT.” Art in the gym that makes you feel like someone is watching, or you are watching yourself.

A few weeks later, Tapp and I met to talk about this large public installation at the hotel. She tells me over lunch at The Butcher’s Daughter near her gallery, GalleryNine5, “The first piece of this kind, I made it for an art fair and I really made it for myself. It said, ‘You Are Here.’”

You Can Do It 628x471 Artbeat: Selfie at the Soho Grand
Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Camilla Webster

The work is expensive to produce, so she considers the pieces carefully and that has been a gift. The phrases have a meaning and an associated color in her mind.”I have a list of phrases on my phone.”

Tapp and I share the same sentiment about the growing importance of really being exactly where you are, both physically and mentally. It was amazing to share my own journey creating and curating an exhibit called “In Front of You,” which had a similar intent. “I feel like people have their head stuck in their phones all the time and now (looking at the work) they are present.”

After lunch, we head over to the gallery, and as I ask her to take a selfie in her own mirrored work, I discover Tapp can’t do this with ease. She’s not a selfie taker, which I quite adore.

The New Yorker, who now lives in the Hamptons, has explored an interaction with color through an incredible body of work over two decades, ever since we graduated college. “I studied color and I believe everybody has a color. I choose the colors carefully. I choose the frames and glasses very specifically.”

For years, I have bathed in her photographs that literally lift you out of time and space. Now it feels very much like a friend talking to me from the walls of an iconic New York hotel. Well she is a friend, but to the stranger — to the hotel guest — she is conscience, a louder voice among the many voices that pulverize us each day in our virtual and physical universe.

Tapp leaves me downtown with the words, “Experience your right now.” I took in Spring Street with fresh eyes, photographed a graffiti and sticker-filled Lennon poster in an entranceway, and headed to Rice to Riches.