Phantasmatical: Self Portraits
The gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings and related drawings by Anne Harris. Included are a series of six medium-sized self-portrait oil paintings, related pastel and Mylar drawings and two earlier works. This is Harris’s third one-person show with the gallery.
In her new self-portraits, Harris shows us, in a manner that is both brutal and liberating, the physical and emotional consequences of middle-age for women. The youthful curve between her waist and hips is gone and her belly fat is starting to fold over her hips. Her breasts flatten and sag, having completed their youthful functions. Her skin is transparent and has lost its elasticity, veins are more pronounced. Her face is pale in some works and, in others, it is flushed and blotchy. Some of these changes are suggested in the titles Harris gives these portraits including Pink Face and Invisible. The latter refers not only to the fact that women become physically transparent as they age—thin skin and white hair—but they also become invisible because they no longer carry the signs of youth, youth being what is sought and seen today.
Harris’s body in her self-portraits, signals what might be understood as the beginning of the process of a woman’s physical demise, starting with the loss of her ability to create new life. Harris’s paintings, however, are not about lamenting these losses. In fact, as is emphasized by the title and content of two other self-portraits tentatively titled Pale Angel and Angel, she seems quite ready to accept the fact that her body, having performed its earthly purpose of conveying life is transforming, readying itself for a new phase. Harris’s paintings, however, do not dwell on the fact of death but rather find in it a release, a semblance of freedom, perhaps even a different kind of birth. This can be seen in the fact that, while physically grounded in their body’s solidity, the heads and elongated necks of these figures—slightly smaller in proportion to the bodies—appear to hover above their bodies, contributing to a spectral quality in these works. Her expressions in these works register confidence, resolve, and poise, and in Invisible resized, we glimpse a slight smile. These figures seem to possess knowledge or a state of consciousness that exists beyond the realm of the ordinary. Her figures appear to emerge from thin air and, despite their physicality, exist in a state and space of suspension.
Harris was born in 1963 and received an M.F.A. in from Yale. She has exhibited her work in Chicago, New England and New York. In 2003 her work was the subject of a mid-career survey at Bowdoin College Museum of Art curated by Alison Ferris. She currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.