One Should Not Look at Anything

Rachel Stern

 Baxter St is proud to present One Should Not Look at Anything, a solo exhibition of photographs by artist Rachel Stern. The presentation is curated by Dr. Ksenia M. Soboleva, Baxter St’s 2022 Guest Curatorial Initiative Recipient, and will comprise over 70 new works. Stern’s elaborately arranged, maximalist portraits incorporate text from Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play, Salome, to create meditations on contemporary notions of desire.

Rachel Stern’s practice is one of translation between artistic modes of expression. She is concerned with the intersection of beauty and power and turns to the tableaux and the theater’s proscenium in order to create a dialogue between the histories of literature, drama, and photography. Stern incorporates kitsch and leftist aesthetics while drawing on Wilde’s narrative examination of the destructive potential of unrequited desire.

As Soboleva writes in a text that will accompany the exhibition: “As a self-identified fat person moving through a fatphobic world, Stern has often felt excluded from the experience of desirability. Continuing her studio practice of creating elaborate sets to stage her photographs, the artist spelled out Salome’s line in letters cut from hand marbled paper, and attached the letters to a sheet of plexiglass placed between the camera and her lavish set. She then posed behind this veil of language, becoming both the desiring subject and the object of desire, both the looker and the one being looked at. Stern’s photographs offer a translation of Wilde’s play into visual language, meditating on the field of vision as both one of desire and of danger.”