I’m going to be out of town, but I wanted to post a reminder that today’s theme is scars! I have eight symmetrical scars on my spine from an injury I suffered in 2010. While it was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever experienced, and I deal with pain everyday, I think about how often artists transform pain. Brooke Eva looked at my scars and saw something else. Scars are healing. They’re the place where the cut was. They’re the place where the skin is growing over the hurt. They are your Earth’s earnings. Your transaction with time. A sign that you survived something that might have killed others.
Brooke Eva – Hanna Grace (2015)
I don’t–for once–have a raft of commentary about this image. It’s entirely too dark and the placement of the subject in the frame is governed less by any pervasive aesthetic logic and more presenting an overhead-ish view without including the camera operators feet.
That’s not really intended as a slight against the image. In being entirely too dark and given the prominence of the vertebral column, there’s a clear parallel with Sally Mann’s work.
However, I talk about Mann entirely too much and it’s seems especially pointless given that when you perform a Google Image Search on this image, the top result is actually a Sally Mann image. No one reads what I post in order to discover something an algorithm could teach them.
What interests me about this is the subject herself: Hanna Grace.
I noticed her work about six months ago and was so impressed with the inherent potential in one of her photosets that I featured it in a post.
Subsequently, her work as well as her commentary/writing keep commanding my attention–there’s something devastatingly insightful in the way she articulates her thoughts. And there’s a certain rawness to her presentation that applies whether she’s modeling, making self-portraits or explaining her singular perspective.
I’ve struggled in the writing of this post–deleting everything multiple times and starting over. I can’t seem to get the tone right. The laudatory aspects is easy enough. Since I legitimately enjoy her work. But there’s also something else I want to address but I’m hesitant…
In several earlier drafts, I’ve tried to suggest a correlation between Hanna and Francesca Woodman. That’s a little too easy and pat, though. What I see as relateable between the two is Woodman’s asymptotic approach to something not unlike malediction in the later work.
However, Woodman’s later work tends to toe the line separating curious exploration and experimentation from outright narcissism. In other words, the precociously astute interrogation of visual representation and gender identity grow that defined her work as a teenager growsincreasingly redundant and struggles to find a solid contextual footing.
Now I’ve read a great deal on Woodman but I’m unfamiliar with critical commentary that has taken issue with her ostensible white, cishet privilege.
That–in turn–propelled me to consider similarities between Woodman’s work and Ana Mendieta’s. Again, that’s probably to pat and easy a corollary but they were both wunderkinds, who were celebrated during their lifetime and who both died under similar circumstances–falling from tall buildings. (Although, it is worth noting that unlike Woodman, Mendieta was probably pushed.)
On top of those similarities, there’s an overlap in their respective tones–a similar maledictory thrust. (In fact, several of Mendieta’s performances invoke violence in ways I consider objectionable.)
Despite that, I find it interesting the degree to which Woodman receives adulation and Mendieta remains lesser known. I’d argue both are equally important. But Mendieta does–at the least–contextualize her work in a broader, historical sense addressing a more primal, magical sense of gender as construct. (By that account, she’s objectively more mature than Woodman.)
Grace’s work strikes me as adjoining these two women. The malediction is subverted into a means of exorcism and the context is intersectional feminist discourse. In that regard, she’s closer to Mendieta than Woodman. However, I do have to point out that in the quote with which Grace introduces the above image, I do think the final sentence is telling: A sign that you survived something that might have killed others. [Emphasis mine]
It doesn’t quite read as an explicit notion of personal exceptionalism. But it does beg the question how surviving something that might have killed others is somehow more noteworthy than surviving something that might have killed you.
Rendering death as an alterity is rather an odd maneuver given the intensity and rawness of the work. Especially given the momento mori of the above image. And I mention it not so much as criticism; more from the realizations that its often the seemingly irreconcilable contradictions between how we think of a thing and how we articulate our thinking about that thing which provide the most staggering growth in our work–creative or otherwise.