Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Week at GMU

Stephanie Booth is having her thesis show this week (March 25 to 29) in the main gallery of the Art and Design Building at George Mason University. I met Stephanie when I was working on my MFA at George Mason and I am excited to see the culmination of her work.

One of the themes Stephanie's thesis explores is the effect of past information on identity. Stephanie dug deep into family genealogy and history and, as one would expect, uncovered surprising stories about people related to her. Her source material includes family photos and text of family history, but often the work required Stephanie to place herself into other family members' identities, as though she were an actor playing a role. Sometimes the "characters" are endearing or benevolently powerful and other times cruel or inhuman, in other words, the full range of family relations is on display.

Stephanie uses human hair throughout the show, both as a medium (yes, that embroidery is made with real human hair) and a metaphor for identity and lineage. She employs photography, embroidery, and video installation to present her exploration of identity and family history with the detached aesthetic of a forensic scientist, and this cool presentation is the perfect counterpoint to her strategy of including herself in some of the photos and videos.

There is a whisper that accompanies the large video installation and it fills the gallery as I look at the backs of heads in a series of photographs. I almost feel that I am surrounded by ghosts and as I leave the gallery, I remember that family is family, whether I like it or not.

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