Jessica Silversaga


The dreamy ethereality of Jessica Silversaga’s work compliments her affection for fairy tales.

Despite their suffused light and idyllic innocence, her images have nothing in common with the ubiquitous Disney versions except the subject of beauty. But where the mass market films reify the notion that goodness always carry the day, Silversaga’s images employ the mechanism of the original materials—wherein the brutality of cruel, pricking thorns frame the delicate rose, rendering it all the more beautiful as a result of sinister intentions.

The brilliant white of tiles and tub, the few clinging strands of wet hair escaping thin braids at her neck and her averted face are replete with beauty.

But why is she turned away. I question whether she has a face– perhaps there is nothing but ragged skin lining the edges of a gaping black void.

Maybe such a response is a result of having seen too many horror movies. (Although I do not think I am entirely off base… she is after all turning left and as the eye enters the frame and passes left to right over it it becomes clear there is nothing she can be looking at. Interestingly, if this image were flipped and she was looking to her right, I think the singular thought would be she was merely turned away.)

It does not matter whether she has a face or not, what matters is her knowing what it is to hold chaos in one’s palm because like us all she too has a body.

By knowing this, we also know she is not another dime a dozen damsel waiting for deliverance from distress.

She is the thorn and the rose. As are we all.

Is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes? In perversion (which is the realm of textual pleasure) there are no “erogenous zones” (a foolish expression, besides); it is intermittence, as the psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather: the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance (Barthes, pg. 9-10).

Perhaps it’s the introversion suggested by the huddled pose or the comely skin. My eye—wishing it was a tongue—darts and circles the erect left nipple.

But the wetness of wanting is thwarted by the shallow depth of field which pushes my gaze away over oceans of cream floating morning glories, wilds rose and springs of red baby’s breath before being pulled back again over small breasts and pale skin to sunlit shoulders and long strands of red silk hair.

And in this seeing I have an honest-to-goodness itty-bitty petit mort every time I glance at this picture.

No, it’s closer to a lover shifting slightly and the movement sending cascades of shivers outward through the ebbing pulsing of orgasmic spasms.

A feeling not unlike the memory of pixie with snow white skin, wire straight, carbon black hair and mischievous eyes wider than miles of un-translated manga: I gazed as she reached across the table, her motion pulling the lower edge of her too-small t-shirt away from the waist of her too-large belted jeans. Thinner than a rail, the ridges of her spine led my eyes down to the orange on purple Victoria’s Secret underwear.

Edges are important. Particularly given their extensive history of being manipulated in order to objectify and sexualize the female body—expertly lampooned by Duchamp’s Etant Donnes.

But the headless woman does have anonymity. And where this previous implied women as little more than fodder for men’s sexual appetites, it now is put into service in order to facilitate the open expression of a sexual identity from behind the safety of a mask.

To be clear, I think that’s awesome; but like all awesome things, it is not without its problems. In this case, the line between anonymous expression and exhibitionism is razor thin at best. What is presented as artful and considered frequently suffers as a result of compositional inconsistencies necessitated by the requirement for anonymity.

This beautiful photograph is one of the few that manages to be rigorously consistent in its composition while also employing the frame edge as a means of masking idenity. A slight shift in perspective, however, would have almost certainly transformed it into something either nakedly exhibitionist or visually impoverished.

It for that reason I think most photo dabblers would do well to borrow from the book of Bellocq’s brother by making a thoughtful image first and then blacking out faces and identifying features later.