Sunday, November 22, 2009

The New Necklace: Alix Smith's Portrait Photographs, Part I

(1) As preamble it is necessary to reference two previous entries on this journal; "Reception Theory," and Reception Theory Continued. The entries discuss Postmodern Reception Theory, and my own notion that the actual artwork is the toggle switch through which all three currents of reception; artist’s intent, viewer and cultural understanding flow.   Thus, the artwork itself is more important than the artist, culture, or viewer though its existence depends on the presence of all three.*
(2) Take note of the fact that the title above is linked to Paxton's original image at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Alix Smith’s Photographs of lesbian and gay families, are beautifully accomplished portraits in which each family and the photographer create an extremely formal tableau reminiscent of classical, neo-classical and most specifically in this article, the portraiture of Boston School artist William McGregor Paxton.  Her current project, “States of the Union,” was introduced in New York City with an exhibition at the Morgan-Lehman Gallery in September of this year.  However, that exhibit represents only the beginning of an ambitious project.  Alix Smith described the full extent of that project as follows.  “I hope to get 300-400 couples and families from across the United States to sit for the project. The finished project will be comprised of four different exhibitions touring simultaneously around the United States, a published book and a speaking tour to help educate the public on the issues addressed by the project.” *

I also found that each tableau is a parody of and comments on cultural stereotypes about lesbian and gay families.  Additionally, the photographs present a narrative to the viewer.  These narratives definitely indicate the artist’s intent through Alix’s reference to historical art works, as well as presenting a creative story-making opportunity to the viewer.

To be continued…


Holly, Michael Ann, Past Looking:  Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image. Cornell University Press (1996)

Smith Alix, "Dear Dr. Bittinger Klomp," E-mail dated and received November 9, 2009.

Other Sources:

Greenfield, Beth, "Straight Shots," Time Out:  New York, September 10-16, 2009, p. 109.

Scallywag, "Alix Smith: 'The Dislocation of Self.'" Scallywag and Vagabond,  May 25, 2009.  Viewed 9:30 AM, EDT, Saturday, November 21, 2009.

Smith, Alix, Website titled Alix Smith © 1997-2008 Alix Smith.  Viewed 9:00 AM, EDT, Saturday, November 21, 2009

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