Exploring the transitional age between girl and woman, CUSP features work from sculptor Jeanie Jones and photographers Rania Matar, Megan Doherty and Holly Andres. Each examine female adolescent experience and observe the ways it is shaped – whether it be by social expectations, cultural heritage or even trauma. Society has a tendency to marginalise, silence or ignore female experience, however each of the artists shown here lend a voice to this liminal space and give expression to the search for identity within the complex landscape of adolescence.
Each artist is intended to be seen within the context of their own work, and the mutual inclusion serves only to offer a spectrum of experiences and perspectives, expressing the multi-faceted nature of the female narrative rather than implying their works should be seen as a homogenous group.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Rania Matar moved to the US in 1984 and has dedicated her work to expressing issues of identity and personal narrative; often depicted through the lens of the female adolescent experience. Here, Girl Museum shows work from two of her portfolios – Becoming and L’Enfant Femme, which show both solitary and progression portraits of pre-teen girls.
From “Personal, Intimate and Universal Exposures”, by Kristen Gresh, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in Matar’s book L’Enfant-Femme:
In today’s world of endless photographing, tagging, and posting images on-line, when millions of photographs are taken and shared on a daily basis, what is a pre-teen girl’s relationship to a camera? As smart phone cameras and selfie-sticks transform photography and self-representation, the girls in these poignant portraits encounter the world of analog photography for the first time when photographed by Rania Matar.
Matar uses a medium format 6 x 7 film camera and her young subjects cannot instantly see the photographs she has taken of them on the back of her camera. Accustomed to the instant gratification of viewing themselves through digital photography, the girls experience the suspense of not knowing immediately how they will be represented. She asked each subject not to smile, a request that forces them to pause and reflect.
The introduction to film photography combined with being asked not to smile contributes to Matar’s success in capturing the authentic emotions, stances and gazes of her subjects. L’Enfant-Femme portrays how young women between the ages of 8 and 12 interact with the camera, and reveals their identities in deeply personal and poetic ways. The series is about representation, about looking, about being looked at, and about being in transition.
When facing the camera at the dawn of adolescence, girls are exposed in a new and different way, reminding us of the fragile self-image of a pre-teen. Matar beautifully captures girls’ developing identities at this key moment in their lives. She is drawn to the angst, the self-confidence or lack thereof, the body language, the sense of selfhood and the emerging sense of sexuality, femininity and womanhood girls this age begin to experience.
More about Rania.
Megan Doherty is a 26 year old photographer hailing from Northern Ireland. Since graduating University of Ulster, Belfast in 2016, Doherty’s exhibited both locally and internationally and continues to build upon her current body of work, embodying ideas of youth, subculture, freedom and escape.
Doherty creates a darkly cinematic atmosphere to reflect the need for escapism within small-town life. In her native Derry, the Magnum Graduate Award 2016 shortlister creates a fictional, highly textured and colourful world in which recurring characters are played by friends. In her work, the scenarios are a combination of composed and documented, depicting the vibrant culture of young adulthood from a distinctly more female perspective.
More about Megan.
Jeanie Jones examines the effects of sexual abuse in her sculptures and drawings, based on her own experiences. The figures that populate her works physically reflect the trauma of abuse, created to look fragile, small and vulnerable. Yet her works also speak of the strength of survivors, and honors their resilience in carrying this pain through to their adult life.
From Jeanie’s website:
My art is about my story
My story is of child sexual abuse in a pedophile ring.
It’s about all the stuff that happens when you’re abused
About all the ways you have to cope.
It’s about dissociation – the slipping out of your body in an attempt to minimise the pain and watch yourself from above.
Holly Andres is a fine art and commercial photographer known for her stylized cinematic scenarios often inspired by her own childhood experiences.
Girl Museum shows works from two of Andres’ portfolios; Sparrow Lane and The Trail of Sparrow Lane.
From Holly’s website:
Sparrow Lane presents an elliptical narrative of young women on the verge of adulthood. Drawing on the formal and thematic conventions of Nancy Drew books, 1970s horror films, and Alfred Hitchcock, the series depicts girls in search of forbidden knowledge. By employing suggestive and symbolic iconography such as chrome flashlights, skeleton keys, mirrors, birdcages and open drawers, literal narratives are suspended to suggest psycho-sexual metaphors.
The Trail of Sparrow Lane consists of a collection of small-scale, intimate images, intended to represent the adolescent character’s psychological trail.