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June 10 to July 25, 1999

Self-Portraits

Sabrina Ovesen

No man is an island,” and this female body is a vast continent that contains a rich and vibrant story, if my body is an isolated landscape, I want it to be viewed as a dark territory. My self-portraits are evolving into a mass that is beginning to emerge out of the darkness without clear borders.

I work with the medium of photography. I am interested in the historical ideology that has influenced the technology of photography and the way the technology can be manipulated. With my most recent work I am trying to subvert images of the female nude by making self-portraits and playiwn with the question, “is my body the subject or the object?”

Sequencing and variations in posture can create different readings of images. I am moving away from sing, stand-alone images and now I have been making images that can be read together. A word or phrase can be attached to an image and I’m interested in creating sentences, paragraphs and stories.

I have been influenced by the photographic nude self-portraits of two male artists, Arno Rafael Minkkinen and John Coplans. Minkkinen combines his body, landscape and the qualities of the photographic medium to make unique portraits of a body that is transformed into something more unified and natural. Coplans’ portrait work documents his aging body with grace, honesty, and humor that I find very emotionally moving. Both artists have produced private self-images which were moved into the context of the public image.

I have been printing black and white negatives of my portraits on colour paper, producing warm colours that accent skin tones and tactility. The hands in my portraits are also important focal points that emphasize scale and the sensation of touch. To prevent a clear and direct gaze of my body and face I have been using a soft focus and occasionally include other objects. A black velvet background has been used for this particular series of images. The velvet does not translate visually in the images but appears to be transferred to the rich soft texture and the drape of the skin on the body’s frame. There is constant attention to the sensation of touch in these images even though the body can only be seen.

A naked female body on display can be viewed as a passive object and to contradict this perspective, I have intentionally chosen a vertical format and created attention to the activity of touch. Also, by actively participating in the image-making by using my own body, I cannot help but challenge the history, codes and tradition of female images. The emphasized skin surface displays scars, blemishes and wrinkles; this is not an innocent body without history, but a person who has experienced life. The portraits can be read as formal compositions of the female body presented for the direct gaze, but by creating images of an experienced body that is both beautiful and flawed, I hope to change this most accessible opinion.

European culture has a history of desire and loathing for the female body. A woman’s body was deceitful and had to be controlled for society’s safety. The aging imperfect body can be associated with corruption, loss of sexuality and decay. Though this exhibition of photographic self-portraits I want to encourage pleasure in viewing a woman’s body that is not a limited icon of masculine heterosexual desire.

Sabrina Ovesen

Two Rivers Gallery > Experience Art > Past Exhibitions > 1999 > Sabrina Ovesen: Self-Portraits

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