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Exhibition: November 20 – January 15, 2011
Lecture: December 2, 4 pm

JULIE BLACKMON, High Dive, 2010, archival pigment print, courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery



blackmon photo

Julie Blackmon tackles the minefield of the contemporary domestic landscape in richly imagined photographs of modern family life. Her carefully constructed tableaux, populated by children who dominate the scene and adults who often exist in fragments at the edges, are filled with humor and sly wit. Her work is informed—pictorially and in spirit—by her love of seventeenth-century Dutch painters, who not only captured rowdy scenes of family (and tavern) life, but lingered lovingly over the physical details of a home: the lush color and texture of the furnishings, the space glimpsed through an open doorway, the quality of light.

It is a world Blackmon knows well. She is the oldest of nine children and has three of her own, who—along with her sisters, nieces, and nephews—appear in carefully orchestrated scenes that capture the love and the pressure of family life today. “I think we’re living at time when most women—never mind the official jobs they may have—are caught in this swirl of play dates, soccer games, and PTA, and our lives have gotten completely overscheduled and out of control…” Blackmon says. “There’s this balancing act between wanting to give everything you have to people you love more than anything, and the desire to escape from them altogether.”

Dutch and Flemish genre paintings of disorderly households often referred to well-known proverbs, allowing the viewer to enjoy the visual debauchery of the scene while being morally enlightened. In Blackmon’s world, for all the humor, there are underlying currents of stress and impending danger. Toddlers are dangled upside down, their mouths open in silent screams; they crawl out of the picture, as though off the edge of the known world; they perch at the edge of a swimming pool, eyes fixed on a floating toy.

Yet, in the midst of the chaos there is a stillness in her work. It grows in part from the total absorption of children and adults in their own worlds, but is enhanced by Blackmon’s technique. Like a painter who might make numerous studies of individual players in a complex composition before creating the whole, she photographs her subjects individually and brings them together via digital technology. She manipulates light, color, and elements of the setting to produce images of dazzling complexity.

Julie Blackmon has received several national awards for her work, including first place for her series Domestic Vacations from both Photospiva and the Santa Fe Photography Center in 2006, along with the Critical Mass Book Award for her monograph of that series. She was named one of thirty emerging photographers to watch by Photo District News in 2007 and Emerging Photographer of 2008 by American Photo. Her photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography, Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, among others.

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