First, there was the striking image of a woman strapped to her wheelchair staring on the television set into the face of the actress she had been. What happened to Baby Jane?, a poker move for Joan Crawford, that proved to be the end of her career. Since then, the image has continued to crystallize around these ultimate vibrations, when it has not purely and simply disappeared from memory.
For Léa De Matteo, it was one night in 2017 that this image came to life. Beyond the role, beyond the actress, it was the woman who, fleetingly but indelibly seemed to awaken, in an almost painful burst. A look without bias then landed on the fallen icon.
And it all started.
Thoroughly, absolutely and resolutely, all the mysteries had to be solved; seeking to touch the absolute with your finger; devoting an almost devout cult to a pagan erected as a Madonna; unmasking her, her finery, her artifices and her pretenses; swimming against the tide in an era that only wanted to hear about a female object condemned to be the puppet of men in a Hollywood already decried so many times, or a “fan” relationship, with its excesses, its idolatries and its shortcuts.
Then began a frantic quest to make Joan exist in a tangible way, among a myriad of kaleidoscopic archives, in the hope of reliving and understanding the first moment of grace. Very quickly the obvious: “find an image that would give both justice and accuracy” (R. Barthes), commensurate with the initial appearance; welcome the daily and lively presence, the new intimacy in which Joan took in turns, the faces of sister, friend, lover… One had to accept the abandonment, the gift of self, the role of channeler, whose hands were sometimes guided by those of Joan. Temporal distance, death, all these insurmountable obstacles had to be circumvented, thwarted with malice and sincerity.
The creation of these contemporary images certainly sheds new light, and relieved Joan Crawford of the clichés that surround her. But the objective is not so much to restore any “truth” about the star as to enter the field yourself. By becoming an actress of her own images, Léa De Matteo manages to establish a mute correspondence, of which the creative act is the process as much as the outcome. Far from solving the Joan Crawford enigma, this ever-changing quest obscures its heady mystery.
Léa De Matteo articulates her work around a central character, Joan Crawford. Favoring b/w photography, she uses various techniques such as video or additive manufacturing. From her productions, unfold questions that continue to grow: the Hollywood heritage, cinematographic ghosts, the evidence of a posthumous encounter, mourning, memory as a second existence…
Léa De Matteo : La Fiancée Muette
February 11 – March 25, 2023
V e r n i s s a g e : Saturday February 11, 2023 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Galerie du Lendemain
107-109, rue Quincampoix