Photographer Suzanes Heintz is a self-proclaimed spinster. As a single woman, she got fed up with the bombardment of questions about when she was going to get married. Tired of being pittied, she decided to confront this issue head on. She purchased two mannequins – one male and one female child – and the series Life Once Removed was born. Dressing up and posing with her fake family, she stages witty representations of the American Dream. Ski trips, vacations, and stereotypical romantic moments are all acted out by Heintz, and she sets the scene perfectly. These colorful images feel saturated, in both how they look and the emotional exuberance of the her expression and body language.
Heintz rejects the notion that to be a successful woman means that you have to fulfill a laundry list of achievements, not limited to an education, career, home, family, accomplishment, and enlightenment. In an interview with Feature Shoot, she explains why she created Life Once Removed:
I’m simply trying to get people to open up their minds and quit clinging to antiquated notions of what a successful life looks like. I want people to lighten up on each other and themselves, and embrace their lives for who it has made them, with or without the Mrs., PhD. or Esq. attached.
All of these photographs are shot on location. When Heintz lays her head in mannequin’s husband’s lap while in the park, it’s totally real, and an important aspect to Heintz’s series. She goes on to say:
While I need the public to act as character and context for the actual photo or video, I also need their responses to make the effort a success as an instigator for social change. The reaction can vary from a raised eyebrow with a head turn, to a blast of laughter, to taking their own snapshots while posing with the mannequins. It depends a lot on the location. But most importantly, it stops people in their tracks long enough to ask me what the heck I’m doing. Because the project is so audacious and flat-out funny, it helps me reach the public, and actually get them to let their guard down long enough for me to have a conversation with them. (Via Feature Shoot)
In Hair Pieces, the photographer Rebecca Drolen examines the relationship between human beings and our hair, highlighting the impulse to deem body hair beautiful or strange. Inspired by what she calls the “archival” power of hair to outlive the rest of the human body, Drolen engages with hair pieces in comical and yet starkly emotional narratives. In the striking series, human hair transforms from ornamentation to elixir to parasite, creating a poignant work that elevates the mundane to the transcendent.
With clever titles like Hair Tie and Ear Hair, Drolen’s images read in part as a modern take on 1960s feminist photography; her carefully staged self-portraits are shot in black and white, revealing the rich grays of her vintage garments, retro decor, and and outdated shears. The home serves as the backdrop to the artist’s exploration of a more domestic femininity. In turn, the luxurious tresses and the house engage in both harmonious and conflicting dialogues: expertly styled hair dresses the windows in one image, yet in another, it uncontrollably discharges from the bathtub drain.
In her apparent nod to both women’s and photographic history, Drolen addresses the association between hair and death, or the ability of hair to document and catalog human existence. Hair fills the medicine cabinet as if promising to cure disease; it covers a foggy, indefinitely seen window to a mysterious space beyond. Like relics of years gone by, hair hangs on a wall, labeled and numbered by tally marks. Without a hint of sentimentality, a pair of shears and a head of hair lay side by side on a cleared out bed, evocative of an individual’s absence and passing. Take a look. (via Lenscratch)
Andrea Tese creates Inheritance, a poignant and thought-provoking photographic series that involves a deeply personal documentation of the artist’s mourning process following the passing of her grandfather. Apart from it being a personal tool for grieving, the Inheritance project is also an exploration of existential ideas in regards to legacy, impermanence, and the definition of self.
These photographs function simultaneously as an acknowledgement to the ephemeral nature of life and as an indulgence in man’s unwillingness to give in to this understanding – his desire to arrest time, to counter anonymity, to leave something behind, to be immortal.
By rearranging the mundane objects that filled Grandpa’s home before his passing, Tese creates these pictorial compositions that recreate her grandfather’s life in a profound, and powerful but controversial way. In essence, here, we see life as a collection of objects, a rather simple and intuitive idea, but one that certainly makes us think whether we get to leave this world with a valuable legacy or not. Are material objects our life-long legacy to our family and friends, and is that enough? Do our personal belongings carry the essence of our being?
Anyhow, it is inevitable to dismiss the fact that Tese does capture her grandfather’s spirit through his ‘junk’. After all, with most philosophical questions aside, it is fair to say that our stuff will be the only tangible pieces of self that will be left after our death. Inheritance is a definite ” poignant reminder that our junk will outlast us all.” (via Co.Design)
With spring around the corner I can’t help but think about flowers, which led me to consider Anna Schuleit’s installation Bloom, 2003, a site-specific installation at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston. Though now over ten years old I feel the idea that art and beauty can heal is a powerful and ever-relevant concept. The installation consisted of over 28,000 flowers, 5,600 square feet of live sod and recorded sound that played over the old public service announcement system. The flowers and sod filled four floors of the historic building and the basement hallways.
The building, which was slated for demolition, had a long and complicated history, having hosted thousands of patients and employees over the years. Struck by the absence of both life and color after visiting the site, Schuleit conceived of BLOOM, reinvigorating the building with an impressive display of flowers and transforming it into a fantasy world for four days. After the installation Schuleit had the flowers donated to half-way houses and psychiatric hospitals throughout New England. As she said of the installation in her interview with Colossal, “I wanted these flowers to continue onward, after the installation. Bloom was a reflection on the healing symbolism of flowers given to the sick when they are bedridden and confined to hospital settings. As a visiting artist I had observed an astonishing absence of flowers in psychiatric settings. Here, patients receive few, if any, flowers during their stay. Bloom was created to address this absence, in the spirit of offering and transition.”
Check out more of Schuleit’s work at her website and read the full interview with her here. All images copyright Anna Schuleit.