PRISKA C. JUSCHKA FINE ART
Stuart Hawkins is a New York based artist who has lived and worked in Nepal for many years. Utilizing both photography and video her work explores contemporary life in a culture often presumed to be untouched by the modern world. For her most recent project “Appearing In,” her subjects address aspects of pop culture as they are invited to respond to the camera. What becomes exciting for both subject and viewer is not the portrayal of an unspoiled paradise as often seen in National Geographic but rather the visual dialogue that comprises consumer culture.
Functioning in a threefold manner Hawkins' portraits and videos bring a unique, new voice to contemporary art. First, they represent parts of the developing world frequently cherished as unspoiled reveling that here too people are just as interested in television, movies, and magazines. As her subjects take to the stage they use props, body language, music, and select English words to bring sex appeal and beauty to the image. While some choose to act out TV commercials, imitate an admired magazine photograph, or combine a film scene with a fantasy, others intentionally spoof on people such as Kate Moss, Tom Cruise, Puff Daddy, or Madonna. A visual tension is created throughout Hawkins' work as her subjects’ grace and awkwardness compel the viewer to question what is innate and what is learned when presenting oneself to the camera.
Secondly, as these unexpected yet familiar representations are presented to us in a context removed from our own new meaning is rendered not only as it pertains to contemporary Nepal but more importantly as we self-consciously recognize the image or ourselves. As we see aspects of our own culture through the eyes of another we are given a new vantage point from which to ask why and what it is that we admire and aspire to. Hawkins decision to present the work on a scale that is life size sets up a challenging dialogue between the subject and viewer making it difficult to avoid the unsettling sensation of looking into a mirror. This potentially uncomfortable exchange is the conceptual strength of the project: the place where we can see most if we are open to seeing ourselves.
Finally, Hawkins' portraits and videos acknowledge an universal intrigue with being filmed and photographed. Her work asks the viewer to consider how we have come to believe what is sexy, what is attractive, and what sells. What is it that makes us feel special when we present ourselves to the camera and what measures do we take to ensure that we will be recorded how we want to be seen, as someone that is successful and looks good.
Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11:00 to 6:00 PM or by appointment.