23 Essex Street
Beverly, MA 01915
We are thrilled to announce Observance: As I See You, You See Me a group exhibition of photographic portraits curated by Leonie Bradbury, featuring the work of Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Caleb Cole, DEAD ART STAR, Ervin A. Johnson, and Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo & Andrew Mroczek. Each photographer explores how identity is constructed through the lens of the cultural, political, and personal circumstances of their subject. Bradbury is particularly interested in the role and responsibility of the photographer in framing the way a subject’s identity is portrayed. Additionally, the exhibition establishes a paradigm wherein the viewer becomes aware of their own subjectivity and identity in relation to the subjects portrayed in the photographs.
The exhibition will feature several large scale (self-)portraits of the artist by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons selected from several series spanning the past seven years. Born in Cuba, but exiled in the US for decades, Campos-Pons uses metaphor, memory, and symbolism to address issues such as home, immigration and identity. At a time when the political climate regarding Cuba is rapidly changing and unstable, Campos-Pons’ evocatively tells the stories of her own life, as well as, the collective experience of her fellow Cubans and in doing so addresses the complex ways that history affects the present moment. It is not always clear what is happening in the images, but the elements of entrapment, confusion, and obscurity are present in all four selected works. This state of uncertainty and ambiguity is passed onto the viewer who is asked to wonder what the images are about, what they mean, and/ or use their imagination and meet the artist half way. Campos-Pons’ images powerfully visualize tragedy and human suffering, but also survival and do so through visual poetry.
Caleb Cole’s series Other People Clothes shows the artist dressed up in someone else’s clothes. For each of the portraits the scene is carefully staged, cropped and lit with the artist either looking directly at the camera or staring melancholically off into the distance. Although Cole is the physical subject of these images, they are not traditional self-portraits. The artist spends time inventing stories for the people they encounter in public places. These narratives address isolation, desire, confusion and are performed in a mode of questioning and searching. Each photograph presents a constructed scene that begins with an outfit or piece of clothing (either bought, found, or borrowed), then an imaginary person to fill those clothes, and finally a location where that person can play out a moment of solitude. Cole aims to capture “the time right before something changes, the holding in of a breath and waiting, the preparing of oneself for what is to come.” The series challenges preconceived notions of who should wear what in terms of types of clothing and reveals the socially coded nature of clothing itself and how much we assume from looking at someone in their environment. https://calebcolephoto.com
In response to mainstream celebrity culture and the omnipresent camera surveillance, DEAD ART STAR started documenting their social network using a Polaroid camera in a direct reference to Warhol’s use of the medium. The artist utilizes formats and structures of performative photography to capture the subjects. The photoshoots served as an open call for collaborators where the subject was intentionally involved with the creation of the image and how they were portrayed. With a select few of these collaborators, the artist co-founded The Bathaus, a multi-disciplinary Boston-based artist collective. Dead Art Star resided at The Bathaus from 2009 to 2013, and many of the photographs are documents of their life and the artists that lived and worked there. The project’s nom de guerre flirts with posthumous fame and the otherworldly as a way of exploring otherness. https://www.deadartstar.com
Ervin A. Johnson’s dramatic portrait series #InHonor is a series of photo-based mixed media portraits made to honor “Blackness” as it exists in its various forms within American culture. #InHonor speaks to the violence and destruction occurring across the country in the form of police brutality directed against people of color. It began as the artist’s personal response to the killings as he felt his “silence” or “failure to act” had become a burden. #InHonor serves as a call to action to the artist himself, but also to other as Johnson is using the series to get people involved and their voices heard. Once each portrait is taken, the skin color of the subject is digitally removed from each image and aggressively renegotiated. According to Johnson, the pigment stands in for a preconceived notion about a particular type of human experience: blackness. Questions of tangibility and digital approximations of an entire race are raised. Johnson says: “The faces are forever transformed, just as our world is with each loss of life.” https://www.ervinajohnson.com
Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo & Andrew Mroczek’s series Virgenes de la Puerta focuses on the transgender women of Lima, Peru. The photographs celebrate the women and presents them as relevant iconic figures within the cultural context of their native land. Influenced by 19th-Century Colonial painting, this series of portraits and tableaux incorporate cultural and religious iconography in an effort to pay homage to the resilience and beauty of these women to strengthen, empower, and embed a sense of pride within the current and future generations of Peru’s LGBTQ community. Barboza and Mroczek worked closely with many Peruvian artisans in the design and production of the objects used as props in the images. They felt it was important to surround the women with parts of their culture made by the hands of native artisans that have passed down these skills for generations, and it provides a better understanding of just how rich and layered Peruvian culture is. https://www.barbozagubo-mroczek.com