At the Threshold
curated by Lisa Russman
May 21 - July 16 2022
Reception May 21, 2-5 PM
At the Threshold is a group photography exhibition that explores the emerging sense of self experienced by adolescent girls on the brink of adulthood. Through a narrative lens, photographers Holly Andres, Gay Block, Cig Harvey, and Rania Matar relay this collective experience and search for identity through intriguing cinematic scenes, compelling environmental portraits, and surreal moments in time. Guest curated by Lisa Russman, the exhibition runs through July 16.
The transition between girlhood and womanhood, though fleeting, is a raw and mysterious stage for those of us experiencing it, and for those of us reliving it. In Holly Andres’ series Sparrow Lane, 2008, three curious girls find clues and discover secrets within vivid, Hitchcockian domestic interiors. Like the covers from 1970s Nancy Drew mysteries, the girls are placed in stylized groupings, with color-saturated costumes and props within vintage, foreboding scenes reminiscent of stills from films like Carrie or Rosemary’s Baby. Forbidden knowledge, mischief, and a loss of innocence unfold in an ambiguous narrative, while iconography like scissors, mirrors, a flashlight, and a bird cage serve as psycho-sexual metaphors. Andres builds dramatic tension by presenting empowered adolescents who dare to think independently and take risks yet are nonetheless restrained by traditional convention and our own voyeurism.
Within that domestic sphere is the most private of sanctuaries, the bedroom. For an adolescent, it is often a private space of escape, freedom, childhood indulgences (like stuffed animals) and experimentation (like hair, makeup, and clothes). For photographer Rania Matar to have earned the trust of these teens to create her series, A Girl and Her Room, is astonishing. Their vulnerability and sheer “in-betweenness” is poignantly expressed by Destiny, by her bed of Tweety Birds, and Emma P., within a sea of discarded clothing.
In Gay Block’s Girl by Car at the Tesuque Village Market, Santa Fe, NM, 1996, an adolescent girl nonchalantly drapes herself against a car. Her physicality is striking – she is confident in bright orange clothing and an uninhibited posture. She is indifferent to the car she leans upon, which is practically bursting with an open door and dangling seatbelt. A raised hand suggests that she is guarded and slightly vulnerable. Above all else, her arresting gaze challenges the viewer. Block has captured this intersection of blissful, unassuming girlhood and knowing, powerful womanhood – a defining moment of adolescence.
This frozen moment, even of an everyday experience, can come to symbolize a rite of passage in our memory. In the series You Look at Me like an Emergency, 2001- 2010, Cig Harvey searches for identity and home, through dream-like snapshots of cropped or hidden figures, capturing fleeting moments which we might have otherwise forgotten. The moments are ours to interpret: a glimpse of a summer afternoon bored by childish backyard games, searching for the cat in the yard, and lying in the grass. Harvey’s magical and transformative images are either representative of that short stretch of time that was adolescence or that interminable wait for something to happen that is adolescence. Or they are both.
As a group, these photographs point to our moment at the threshold.
image © Holly Andres, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery. The Heart Shaped Locket, 2008. From the series ‘Sparrow Lane.' 25 x 20 inch chromogenic dye coupler print. Edition of 12.
See exhibition images here.
Checklist is available here.
594 Valley Road, Mews Courtyard
Montclair NJ 07042
917 755 9328
and by appointment.