Swerve and Fracture
Swerve and Fracture
Caroline Wells Chandler
Pao Houa Her
Swerve and Fracture brings together four artists whose works address current familial roles and gender constructs. In the wake of immigration and marriage law overhauls, the domestic sphere presents a site of experimentation for these artists of varied backgrounds. Making use of both analog and digital photography, as well as video, they interweave document and fiction to create pliable narratives that explore contemporary relationships.
Defying traditional conceptions of family portraiture produced by women as diaristic or feminine, the artists revise and expand the family snapshot. In a 1974 issue of Aperture magazine, Tod Papageorge bemoaned the fact that, in the hands of well-meaning family members, “Swerve and Fracture invade the domestic precincts to transform memento-portraits into flat, half-cocked photographs.” For this exhibition, “Swerve and Fracture” describes our cultural reordering of the family unit, as well as the ways that artists’ works reflect those changes conceptually and technically.
Pao Houa Her prints on papers of assorted quality and functionality, such as newsprint and inkjet paper, and alternates between photographic genres to represent her layered community identifications as a Hmong refugee in Minnesota.
Manal Abu-Shaheen uses strategic lighting and long exposure times to capture photographs of family members, friends, and partners as they sleep. A body of work made on her Lebanese-American brother’s farm depicts his efforts to become self-sufficient while raising two children as a single father.
Kate Merrill’s video and photographs craft a fantasy-tinged image of life with her husband in Western Massachusetts and with her sister and nudist parents in rural Maine. Rather than correct accidents of exposure and developing, she relinquishes control of these aspects in protest against the hyper-perfection afforded by digital technologies.
Caroline Wells Chandler’s video layers his mother’s narration of his childhood gender-queer identity over family footage. He recites the story as though it were someone else’s, suggesting impersonal, broader applications. Visitors are invited to touch a blanket printed with a photograph of Chandler’s family, evoking photography’s eroding function as a tactile memento.
Kelly Cannon (1988, Miami) received a bachelor’s degree in art history from Yale College in 2011. She has worked at Aperture Foundation and on A Different Kind of Order, the 2013 ICP Triennial. She currently works in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art.