Sleeping Beauty© Lydia Panas
“ In an interesting reversal of roles, the artist’s and model’s gazes are intertwined, incorporating the viewer as a participant in an often uncomfortable connection. Critics and curators have praised the work for Panas’ artistic and technical mastery, and all have noted and examined the powerfully affecting gaze of her subjects. ”— Elizabeth Avedon
“In this decidedly feminist body of work, Panas includes a selection of new photographic and video works,— Paul Nicholson of Martin Art Gallery
continuing her decades-long and wide-ranging exploration of portraiture. Sleeping Beauty’s subjects seem to actively collaborate in the creation of their images. Individuals confront the viewer, meeting the glare of the camera with a penetrating stare. Each visage bears a lifetime of experiences while embodying the resilience and indomitable spirit we’ve come to associate with the #metoo movement. Each woman, a strong, unintimidated individual, refusing to be denied agency or personhood. ”
Making photographs in the fields and forests of our family farm in Pennsylvania evokes complicated memories from my unconscious, as I reconfigure my personal history through the camera. Working with women and girls as we navigate the dense forest, I am reminded of the memories our bodies hold on to and the entanglements we must let go of.
Highlighting the importance of the past on the present and the complicated relationship between artist and subject, I pay attention to the roles of power and trust on both sides of the camera, as I consider what I longed for as a child, what I was afraid of, and the transformation from girl to woman. As I wander deeper into my psyche the process clarifies, brings me closer to myself, and suggests a sense of control.
Sleeping Beauty is about the things we communicate and hold back from others, and our capacity for change. The photographs attempt to describe how it feels to be a girl, controlled, silenced, and a woman realizing her strength. The women and girls in these portraits challenge the viewer, they are aware, defiant. The repetition in the poses and the setting reinforces the notion that the portraits are less about the individual and rather an impression, as each image builds successively upon the previous one. Straddling vulnerability, recognition, and resolve, the images draw the viewer into an intimate and uncomfortable encounter, dismantling the power of the viewing gaze
My photographs act as self-portraits. The figures are a physical embodiment of our entanglement with our past, collectively, and individually. Emerging from the lush landscape, the women and I look at one another as we begin to drop our facades, and for a few moments, understand each other perfectly. A window of alignment where all things superficial give way to vulnerability and strength.
-Lydia Panas 2022
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