Cultivate 7twelve exhibit explores branding through social media

The current Cultivate 7twelve exhibit explores the influence of social media on modern personal branding. Sparking mixed reactions among artists and the community, some have debated whether social media’s influence has been positive or not. Lindsey Reynolds | Reporter

Lindsey Reynolds | Reporter

The power of social media is one of the foremost hot button issues of the 21st century, and Cultivate 7twelve’s latest exhibit addresses the topic head on, featuring pieces that explore branding and advertising through the medium.

“The Art of Celebrity and Modern Brand Making: POP” is a mixed media exhibit that features photographs of presently famous personas, portraits of influencers from the past and even an artistic take on a recent Twitter argument between Hillary Clinton and President Trump. Each piece highlights the power that creating a persona has upon society and how it has transformed the way we place value upon people and things.

Jordan Wallace, venue manager at Cultivate 7Twelve, said he believes that social media has grown to play a crucial role in the way we advertise our personal brands.

“In this age, a large part of our persona comes from advertising. We identify with advertising. We find out what the latest app is, learn how to dress, and what new phones are out,” Wallace said. “Social media is a key marketing tool.”

Wallace explained that when people see an image, they identifies with it in some way or another. The influence of the image could be negative or positive, but ultimately a message is relayed. Wallace interpreted a piece by Waco artist Jenna Brooks of famous Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali and how she captured the late artist’s bold persona in a lone black and white painting.

“Everything you see in the gallery right now is marketing some kind of message. Salvador Dali was an iconic figure of his time in the way that his style was really different and unique,” Wallace said. “Just by painting his face, she expressed an entire genre of art he created in the 1900s.”

No strangers to the art of brand making, two Waco photographers turned entrepreneurs, Eric Linares and Andreas Zaloumis, related personal experiences of creating their brands to the pieces in the exhibit.

Linares, owner of Taqueria Quetzal Co. in Waco, explained both the upsides and downsides of modern brand making through social media.

“Branding has become its own entity. It doesn’t even matter who you are personally; your brand is its own living creature,” Linares said. “It creates a sort of clash between people’s mental perception of their brand and of who they truly are.”

The struggle toward authenticity in social media portrayal has been a prevalent conversation since the origins of sites such as Six Degrees, Friendster and Myspace. The issue has become increasingly more prominent with emerging “catfish” stories and scandals such as the Fyre Festival, each instance misleading audiences on both small and large scales.

“Many times in media, you will see the personal aspect come to light, and you have these terrible stories of people acting out,” Linares said. “It shows how much we as a people have started believing what a brand is, versus what a human is and we can’t really separate the two.”

Owner of Thrst Coffee, Andreas Zaloumis, agrees that while social media and celebrity personas may mislead audiences, the platforms do provide a valuable tool for an individual to market skills and attributes with minimal to no cost.

“Social media is one of those platforms that you can create an identity with, and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. “You can project something you want and are aspiring to be, and working your way to be,” Zaloumis said. “Social media gives you that access and exposure without having to pay a lot.”

Visit the exhibit for free at 712 Austin Ave. until April 3, or preview it on the Culitvate 7twelve website.