dnj Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, “Claude Cahun and After.” The exhibition begins with four vintage prints by the famed early twentieth century photographer, Claude Cahun. Working during the troubled interwar period in Europe, Cahun was one of the first female photographers to use portraits, often of herself, to explore notions of identity and gender. Cahun’s images serve as a point of departure for assembling five contemporary photographers who explore their own struggles with the concept of self. All of the artists contend with identities from different social classes and geographic environments, extend their temporal range into the past and future, and transform themselves or others to express concepts of sexuality, gender, beauty, and hope.
Sia Aryai explores female beauty through the filter of his own childhood in repressive Tehran, Iran, where as a boy he sketched female figures from contraband magazines. In his series “Eternity,” Aryai portrays empty gazes and whitened faces of women. Aryai seeks to reduce the effects of cultural dictates about beauty and to highlight the essential, timeless qualities of his subjects. Aryai’s portraits reflect a perspective about beauty that was formed by the restrictive circumstances of his youth and that has since become a key element of his identity as an artist.
In “Artificial Memories,” Corey Grayhorse creates intricate worlds that incorporate influences from art, fashion, set design and pop culture. Underlying these colorful and seemingly lighthearted photographs is Grayhorse’s own darker yearning for escape from certain circumstances in her own life. The characters in these nearly narrative images represent Grayhorse’s own idealized, yet unattainable, version of the life and identity she dreams of for herself.
Clay Lipsky’s self-portraits from his “In Dark Light” series reflect his battles with depression and the resulting sense of a loss of identity. Shadowy self portraits of the artist moving through isolated landscapes suggest Lipsky’s anguish and are visual metaphors for the obstacles and promise of life.
Ni Rong lived in China until the age of 28, when she immigrated to the United States for graduate school. Her ambivalence toward her cultural identity is illustrated in her series “In America – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.” Rong’s self portraits are visual interpretations of the tension between her desire to embrace the past while looking for a future for herself in a new land.
With her “Tam is…” photographs, Tam Tran explains that she seeks to “express her inner heroine through [her] works – breaking free of reality and altering [her] own appearance.” Each image depicts Tran as a new entity made from a combination of herself and the artists who inspire her.