Eleanor Oakes


PL9653 (2014)

As memory is a faulty medium, what defines truth as formed through an individual past? Photographs are visual evidence of a precise instant, while the stories we tell around them become a unique truth constructed through our own re-remembered narrative. My visual inquiries of absence are rooted in an understanding of history as mutable. Here, backdrops are presented as empty and stained; the subject removed. These works play on the boundary of the seen and the unseen. They reference the stages of vibrant renaissance still lifes, while simultaneously implying the backdrops of a modern photography studio, a façade designed to separate subject from environment. As the cloth’s own weight cause it to sag gradually, its imperfect edges suggest a realm beyond the surface but obstruct us from seeing it. Although documenting a physical scene, the transpired event is unknowable. These images ask the viewer to play an active part in their experience, to make their own interpretation of events. As with memory, the most interesting landscapes are formed in the areas between what we know and what we can perceive.

Born in New York, Eleanor Oakes received her BA in Visual Arts and Art History from Princeton University in 2007 and an MFA in Art Practice from Stanford University in 2014.  Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and publications, including a solo show at Tyler Wood Gallery in San Francisco (2015), and 25 Under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers (powerHouse Books and CDS, 2008).  She was a recipient of the Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Award from the San Francisco Foundation in 2013, and a winner of the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Emerging Photographers Competition in 2012.  Oakes currently lives and teaches in Detroit, Michigan.

Artist’s Website: eleanoroakes.com