Alexandra SophieSecret Garden (2014)

I have no idea which came first this project or Natalie Fressel’s Forbidden Fruit but there is absolutely overlap between them.

Fressel is all about color and blunt synecdoche; Sophie is more subdued but she also presents a coy playfulness.

I’d be willing to give both the benefit of the doubt and tout them as promising up-and-comers. Except, well, when you get down to the nitty gritty, Sophie’s work is actually categorically better.

No, it doesn’t have to florid color. The skin tone is a little flat and the grass doesn’t quite pop the way you’d maybe hope from an artist working in color. What is exceptional about these are the positing of the hands.

Now before you start lecturing me about how you didn’t even notice the hands, so why am I banging on about them. Well, that’s my point. Look closer–remembering the oft repeated frustration people express about being in a photograph: I never know what to do with my hands.

The hand positions in this are very obviously staged but not in a way that stands out. (The hint of the fingers in the third frame from the top is freaking ingenious.)

I’m super hesitant to impose meaning on work by artists with which I am only passingly familiar, but the way this is about touch and so much of the dynamic effect depends on the hands, I think under the darlingness of these pretty pictures is a very intense effort to develop a visual language to address representation of a woman’s sexuality. Specifically, I’d be pretty willing to be this project is actually about the relationship between young women and masturbation.

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