Photographer Sandra Matthews started her ongoing portrait project – Timelines – in 1989. She writes, “I began a portrait project in which I photographed individual women – family, friends and acquaintances – against a backdrop of collaged newspaper. Eighteen years later I returned to this project, making new backdrops, re-photographing some of the original subjects and adding new ones. The focus of the work shifted to the passage of time itself. I photographed not only individuals over time, but also generations alongside each other.”
The Mead currently has two of Matthews’ portraits on view (through June 29). The first is Amira and Nancy 1989 / Amira and Samari 2008 (above), which depicts a mother, Nancy, and her daughter, Amira, on the left, and grown-up Amira and her own daughter, Samari, on the right. The second is Ibi 1989/ Ibi 2007 (below), two portraits of one woman taken eighteen years apart.
Matthews continues: “While the individuals I have photographed are drawn from my own circle of personal relationships, their lives are shaped by global factors. Collectively, they have experienced illness, violence, disability and loss, and also have grown, survived, met challenges and thrived. Taken together, the ‘Timelines’ allow me to engage more fully with my own historical moment.”
To see more of Matthews Timelines, visit her website.
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The following prints by German-born American artist Katja Oxman joined the collection just last year and are currently on display in the Mead’s New Arrivals exhibition (on view through June 29).
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This beautiful triptych, titled Sound of Water Over Rock, is a meticulously arranged still life. The title, taken from a passage in T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem “The Waste Land” in which the speaker longs to hear the sound of water over a rock, subtly alludes to the diversity of forms in the print. Similar to Eliot’s complex and excursive poem, Oxman’s print is a mélange of the traditional and the modern, the soft and the sharply cut, the flat and the three-dimensional, the geometric and the impressionistic. Notice, for instance, the contrasts between the rug’s pattern, the renditions of Japanese prints, and Monet’s water lilies.
This print – In Yellow Hewn – takes its title from nineteenth-century Amherst-born poet Emily Dickinson, who wrote, “Of Yellow was the outer Sky / In Yellower Yellow hewn / Till Saffron in Vermilion slid / Whose seam could not be shewn.” Within the print, one finds the connotation of “hewn” in the way two thin streaks of blue and yellow mirror each other over the mountains, as if indicating that the yellow sky is raggedly dissolving into the approaching night clouds. The window faces west; the table is already sunk in the hues of “Saffron” and “Vermillion.” Colorful postcards depicting well-known artworks on the tabletop and the flowering orchid curving over the scene aesthetically complement the distant sky. Although indicative of Oxman’s customary fondness for strictly structured shapes and her lack of shadows, this mountainous vista nevertheless betrays a pensive depth and hints at a great expanse beyond the confines of the room and the frame of the window.
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Cuban artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons created this work – titled Voyeurs & Beholders of . . . – in response to the Iraq War. “When I see what is going on in the world, I feel like crying,” she said in a 2008 interview.
Voyeurs & Beholders of . . . is made up of five photographs in which Campos-Pons subtly confronts the viewer with issues of gender and race. She has outlined the large eyes in the foreground with long strands of frizzy black hair, which reflects her own concern with the voyeuristic perception of women—especially black women. The absence of faces, however, makes the eyes ambivalent. While hair and crying conventionally suggest the “weaker sex,” the act of watching—of being a voyeur—has traditionally masculine connotations.
Voyeurs & Beholders of . . . is on view in the exhibition New Arrivals: Modern and Contemporary Additions to the Collection through June 29.
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