Take a second look. The exhibit is a nuanced Janus presentation of girlhood well worth the visit.
Together, two artists break taboos and give us a revealing look at the state of contemporary girlhood. These friends have made a thorough study of childhood and undoubtedly remember their own as they show us some surprising interpretations of young girls metaphorically swimming upstream with determination towards adulthood.
Of the two, Melissa Pinney takes a more benevolent look at girl-interactions and the social implications revealed and captured on film. Simple tableaus are steeped in multi-faceted discourse of gesture and glance. Her own daughters, Pinney tells us, grew up with the camera clicking. In her glossy photos, girls are always engaging and engaged, either in their own world or that universe of the social group. In Six Girls (Archival Pigment Print, 36” x 44”, $5,000 framed) we see a lineup of confidence and love, uncertainty and guarded caution, all in one click of the camera. The fun is in the subtlety of the shot. The surprises are in the tender nuances of facial and body expressions. Hopeful projections highlight a potential leader, a caretaker, a dreamer, a game-changer. Despite clear individuality, the social group becomes a pulsing entity – and the future is uncertain.
Jump Rope (archival pigment Print, Ed. 1/10, 23” x 28”, $3,500 framed), shows us four girls who fly on bent knees away from their land bound shadows. The composition is riveting and the contrast of movement and stability is joyful. Here and in most of Pinney’s photos, the girls seem to see themselves as a unified front facing the future with verve.
The paintings of Judith Raphael project another interpretation of girlhood. These paintings strip away the gloss and show us some undercurrents of grit and malice that are not usually associated with this gender group. These girls don’t pull punches and they face what is out there bravely. We see strength and resolve that the girl-stereotype does not often acknowledge.
In Conquest and Clemency, (oil on linen, 26” x 52”, $4,500), one girl fearlessly rides a fierce pit bull dog with a menacing studded red harness into a group of three girls who seem to have been doing typical girl activities with leotard, hula hoop and microphone. A sweetly benign looking child reaches for the dog’s head, past its full set of unproportionally large and sharp teeth. The visual jolt is in the fiery expression of that innocent child who seems to bare her teeth fearlessly back at the beast, and in so doing, is safe.
The painting Free Fall (acrylic on panel, 26” x 42”, $3,600), depicts three girls free-float through a dangerous sky full of airplanes and parachutes, their own backpacks yet unopened. In this unusual environment the expressions on the girls’ faces are riveting: serene, determined, wise, commanding, and in one case, joyful.
Pinney’s subdued color and dry painting style allow the unexpected and uncompromisingly unique subject matter to compel us around the exhibit with a sense of unease and contemplation.
Volume 34 no 4 March/April 2020 pp 15-16
Judith Raphael and Melissa Ann Pinney. Hofheimer Gallery, 4823 N. Damen Ave., Chicago Il; Hofheimergallery.com