Sleeping Beauty (MW Editions) presents an award-winning photographer Lydia Panas‘ Fascinating and psychologically charged color portraits of reclining or half-reclined women and girls in lush natural surroundings, a metaphor for the positions in which girls and women have been historically placed. Yet the women and girls photographed by Panas look directly at the camera and therefore at the viewer, with acute self-awareness. Through the photographer’s lens, their unmistakable gazes signal the knowledge they work to counter the stereotypical boxes they’ve been forced into. These women and girls look at us in a way that implies a lack of complicity. In a role reversal from the fairy tale, Panas’ subjects exude a quiet power. They are wide awake and ready to get up at their own request.
In her text, Marina Chao recounts the evolution of Panas’ work over almost 30 years. “Panas creates a collective portrait of psychological femininity as it is embodied by herself and the sitters and is understood, or misunderstood, by those viewing the work. The Sleeping Beauty portraits are also a collective mirror, reflecting our feelings towards women, our assumptions and our expectations of them. The space in these photographs is more collected, protected and intimate than in the artist’s previous works and has moved from their idyllic, pastoral setting to one that is unmistakably Edenic. The women of Panas—Panas herself, all of us—move on, advance, and reclaim the Garden.
Maggie Jones opens her essay with a personal story of being sexually harassed by a man on a sleeper train when she was 19. She managed to calmly extricate herself from the situation but was filled with shame that her reaction had been so ‘slow’ and ‘silent’. .” She recalled the event while looking at one of Panas’ photographs:
“I thought about that night when I saw the photo of Jacque in Lydia Panas’ Sleeping Beauty. Like many of the women in this book, Jacques is on her back, the detritus of autumn – dried grass, brown leaves – all around her. But despite the fact that she is lying down, she is no one’s victim. She crosses her arms over her chest, squeezes her hand under the sleeve of her shirt. A small furrow crosses his forehead. His eyes are open and attentive. She looks at the viewer with skepticism, mistrust.
Jones concludes: “At 19, I was already expecting bullying and had digested the message that I had to get rid of it and move on. Creating a stronger response took years of tweaks and starts. Lydia Panas’ photos remind us that there are, in fact, no shining moments of awakening and speaking out. Instead, we are pushing against gravity, toward a constant, sometimes uneven process of becoming.
Sleeping Beauty embodies Panas’ complex and deeply personal relationship with portraiture. Her work is rooted in experience, what she sees and how she understands people, relationships and power dynamics. With her medium format camera, she meticulously explores what lies beneath the surface of her subjects and thus reveals their inner strengths, as well as her own. It is a rich and symbiotic process.
In a catalog essay, Hyperallergic editor Seph Rodney writes that “Panas has said that this series, and indeed much of his earlier work, is about his realization that women, in particular, remain silent about issues over which they have a prospect, because they have been taught that they will be arrested. She explains that “we learn it early and often and we follow suit. Not that we necessarily believe it, but we are trained to be silent. In that vein, the women in this series are “depressed,” but with a wary eye, and about to “get back on their feet.” »
Critics and curators praised Panas’ artistic and technical mastery and noted the intensely touching gaze of his subjects. Panas remarked, “While my subjects are actually turning their gaze on me, it’s as if at times I’m turning the camera on myself, both in the present and in time.” The traditional position of authority is challenged and complicated in these striking and quietly confrontational portraits.
About the artist:
Lydia Panas is a visual artist working in photography and video. Drawing on a combination of psychoanalysis and feminism, her work delves into identity and what lies beneath the surface, exploring questions of who we are and what we want to become. Exploring the roles of power and trust on both sides of the camera, she describes what it’s like to be a woman, a human being, and the complex range of emotions we experience. Panas’ work has been widely exhibited in the United States and around the world. His photographs are represented in public and private collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, Bronx Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Palm Springs Art Museum, Allentown Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago, Museum of Photographic Arts San Diego, the Zendai Museum of Modern Art. , Shanghai and the Sheldon Museum, among others. Two monographs of his earlier work have been published: The fall from grace (Conveyor Arts, 2016) and Abel’s Mark (Kehrer Verlag, 2012), which was named “best coffee table book” by the Daily Beast. For more information visit: www.lydiapanas.com.
Associated personal exhibition:
Bailey Contemporary Arts
On view until March 22, 2022
41 NE 1st St, Pompano Beach, FL 33060