Jessica Todd Harper’s work feels familiar because she works with the raw material that goes into so many family albums. But the point of looking at her pictures carefully is not so much that we can get to learn about her life and her family. Rather it is that we, like her, should aspire to become artists of our own lives. – Alain de Botton, Foreword to Jessica Todd Harper’s monograph, The Home Stage
Gazing at photographs of other people’s families is a search for identification, for placement in the world, for finding oneself reflected in the faces of others. With Jessica’s photographs I am reminded of a single memory from visiting one of the first photography exhibitions I recall as a teenager ingesting photography whole: Diane Arbus, at the Museum of Modern Art in 1972. I remember standing next to two older women who were just so gleeful as they pointed to the photograph, Two Ladies at the Automat, New York City and one of them exclaimed “Aunt Mary has that same hat!” – therefore democratizing and eliminating any of the strangeness that once seemed so central to Arbus’ work but has now been sanitized through the cultural process of political correctness.
Your family may look nothing like the people in Jessica’s photographs. What may bind you however is the humanity of gesture: the inquisitive, knowing stare of children; the family gathered in the kitchen, the chaos of strewn toys everywhere, the light touch of a mother’s hand on a sleeping child’s shoulder. Women are empowered in her photographs; their gravitational pull is the force pulling the subjects together.
What is even more likely is that your family photographs look nothing like hers. Steeped deeply in the history of American Impressionist and Renaissance painting and honed over a 20-year career as a photographer, her process is best summed up as manipulating light, wrangling it to serve her eye. She recently offered a workshop in lighting, employing “before and after” comparisons of scenes she photographed. What is clear is that we live in Jessica’s “before” world.
The selection of images included in this online exhibition are from the last few years, created after the publication of The Home Stage (Damiani Editore, 2014). As this month draws to a close, the now annual Women’s History Month, we are pleased to update and share our exposure to Jessica’s work and pay homage to and celebrate the influence that she, and the other women artists we currently work with, have had on our program. They include: Cat Balco, Sharon Harper, Molly Lamb, Lilly McElroy, Yola Monakhov Stockton, Alyse Rosner, Donna Ruff, Wendi Schneider, Mary Shah. Donna J. Wan, Tenesh Webber and in our current group exhibition, Sarah Dineen and Seren Morey.
RWFA Rick Wester Fine Art
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