Jan 07 2014
The University Art Gallery presents Laurel Nakadate: Strangers and Relations, an exhibition of large-scale color portrait photographs drawn from Nakadate’s Star Portraits and Relations series. Records of first-time encounters, taken at night in isolated locations, lit by moonlight and a single handheld flashlight, these photographs construct fragile, intimate relationships between artist, subject, and viewer. Nakadate will speak about her work on April 4th at 4:30 pm in Convocation Hall. Reception to follow. In association with the exhibition, the Friends of the University Art Gallery will present a screening of the feature length film The Wolf Knife (2010), written and directed by Nakadate, on February 25th at 7:30 pm in the SUT.
During the summer of 2011, Laurel Nakadate began to photograph strangers for the Star Portraits series, inviting friends of friends, Facebook “friends,” and curious members of the online community to meet her at night in remote corners of the United States and Europe. During the same time period, Nakadate also undertook DNA and genealogical research, discovering genetic ties to the descendants of slaves and pilgrims, the McCoy clan, and the early Protestant feminist Anne Hutchinson, among others. She contacted distant relatives on DNA websites, and arranged to meet them, also at night, in order to make their portraits for Relations. Her subjects, whether distant relatives or Internet contacts, appeared for their portraits without prior instructions and chose their own clothing. The results are photographic performances that record the instant that the artist and her subjects see each other for the first time, capturing the connection of strangers. This connection has been an important part of Nakadate’s work since her earliest video pieces, in which she recorded herself dancing or singing with strangers met through chance encounters. In the photographs of Strangers and Relations, Nakadate does not appear in front of the camera herself, except in the DNA that she shares with her diverse subjects. She writes:
In my early videos, I physically appeared in the work. In these new portraits, I am allowing my body, my DNA, to navigate my direction; where I will travel and whom I will meet. These strangers, who are also distant cousins, share bits of DNA with me – in some ways, these images become modern day self-portraits. I see these strangers, who are also relatives, as little glimmers of the ancestors who connected us hundreds of years ago.