A Girl and Her Room | 2018
Archival pigment print on baryta paper. Photographic installation of 50 photos of 30 x 45 cm each. Ed. 1/2 (+2AP)
As a mother of teenage daughters I watch their passage from girlhood into adulthood, fascinated with the transformation taking place, the adult personality taking shape and a gradual self-consciousness replacing the carefree world they had known and lived in so far. I started photographing them and their girlfriends, and quickly realized how aware they were of each other›s presence, and how much the group affected the identity they were portraying to the world. From this recognition the idea of photographing each girl alone, by herself, emerged.
I originally let the young women chose where they wanted to be photographed and after a couple of them chose their bedroom, I realized that was the nexus of a project. The room was a metaphor, an extension of the girl, but also the girl seemed to be part of the room, to fit in, just like everything else in the material and emotional space.
While I started this work with my daughters and their friends, and with daughters of my friends, I eventually moved away from only photographing girls that I knew well. I enjoyed discovering new girls and building with them a photographer/model relationship with no expectation or holding back from either of us. I always spent time with each girl, so she was comfortable with me and eventually the photography session became a beautiful and intimate collaboration. I was discovering a person on the cusp on becoming an adult, but desperately holding on to the child she barely outgrew, a person on the edge between two worlds, trying to come to terms with this transitional time in her life and adjust to the person she is turning into. Posters of rock stars, political leaders or top models were displayed above a bed covered with stuffed animals; mirrors were an important part of the room, a reflection of the girls› image to the world; personal objects, photos, clothes everywhere, chaotic jumbles of pink and black make-up and just stuff, seemed to give a sense of security and warmth to the room like a womb within the outside world.
I initially started this work focusing on teenage girls in the United States and eventually expanded the project to include girls from the two worlds I am most familiar with, the two worlds I experienced myself as a young woman: the United States and the Middle East. This is how this project became personal to me. I became fascinated with the similar issues girls at that age face, regardless of culture, religion and background, as they learn to deal with all the pressures that arise as they become conscious and aware of the surrounding world wherever this may be.
Being with those young women in the privacy of their world gave me a unique peek into their private lives and their inner selves. They sensed that I was not judging them and became an active part of the project. Their frankness and generosity in sharing access was a privilege that they have extended to me but also to all the viewers of this work.
Biography of the artist
Born in Beirut. 1984
Works and Lives in Boston
Born and raised in Lebanon, Rania Matar moved to the U.S. in 1984. Originally trained as an architect she currently works full time on her personal photography projects and teaches at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work focuses on women and girls in the U.S and in the Middle East, with an emphasis on identity and universality.
Matar’s work has been widely exhibited, most recently at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Carnegie Museum of Art, National Museum for Women in the Arts, Harn Museum of Art, Howard Greenberg Gallery, The Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, Tufts University Art Gallery, L’Institut Du Monde Arabe in Paris, East Wing Gallery in Dubai, Galerie Janine Rubeiz in Beirut, Galerie Eulenspiegel in Basel, Lehmbruck Museum in Germany, Sharjah Art Museum, and The National Portrait Gallery in London.
Matar has received several grants and awards including a 2017 Mellon Foundation artist-in-residency grant at The Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, a 2011 Legacy Award at the Griffin Museum of Photography, 2011 and 2007 Massachusetts Cultural Council artist fellowships, first place at the New England Photographers Biennial and Women in Photography International. In 2008 she was a finalist for the Foster Award at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, with an accompanying solo exhibition. Her work was recently selected as one of the 10 Remarkable Photographers to Discover at This Year’s AIPAD Fair.
A mid-career retrospective of Matar’s work is currently on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, in a solo exhibition In Her Image, December 2017 – June 2018.
Matar’s images are in the permanent collections of several museums, institutions and private collections worldwide.
She has published three books:
L’Enfant-Femme, 2016; A Girl and Her Room, 2012; Ordinary Lives, 2009.
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