The Gentlemen's Paintings photography project is a comment on societal attitudes about female mid-life “appropriateness” according to contemporary societal standards. Women, in their 40s and 50s, face the complicated transition between youth and old age and struggle to define their public persona and image. This series is a photographic reflection of this struggle, and, a self-portrait - a personal exploration of Southern California where for some women, the attainment of a youthful appearance through religious exercise, plastic surgery and or “inappropriate” dress is the cultural norm. As a 40 something, former urban east coast woman, the process of attempting to assimilate into this new landscape has challenged my notions of what it means to “age gracefully.”
The aesthetic inspiration for these pictures was the portrait series of aristocratic women in bucolic settings by the painter Francisco Goya entitled "Gentlemen's Paintings." Painting during the time of the French Revolution—a period when the role of women, at least in urban and upper-class society, was beginning to change—Goya was more ironic commentator than feminist advocate, and his attitude toward women was both ambivalent and complex. My project is a contemporary take on his work, where I depict women (including myself) in Goya-esque poses in pastoral environments, who are able to take many more liberties both in a public and private arena.
In this series I pose several questions: Why do want we to attain a youthful appearance and attempt to deny time, aging, and “a million deaths”*? What way of expressing ourselves is “appropriate” for our age demographic? Do photographic images of ourselves match our self perception?
*David Foster Wallace
ABOUT THE PRINTING PROCESS AND PRESENTATION
Each 20x30 image presented in this exhibition is a limited edition of 1. This set utilizes an archival printing process of printing the image to film, mounting it to airplane grade aluminum, and sealing it with UV glass. A subsequent limited edition set of 5 per image is also available on hand coated archival prints in matte. Printing executed by Allan Finnemore of Epilogue, Inc. in Los Angeles.