Bodies of Wood
April 7 - May 15, 2016
Peninsula Art Space, 352 Van Brunt, Brooklyn, NY
In Bodies of Wood, artist Rowan Renee presents a series of self-portraits exploring their relationship to their father, a convicted pedophile, five years after his death in prison. Renee uses the camera to explore the long-term physical and psychological effects of incest while simultaneously reclaiming their own agency within a legacy of violence. Shot on color-film and printed as unique analog C-prints, these images capture the artist’s brave and uncompromising vulnerability with a vibrancy as beautiful as it is jarring. The result is a raw and earnest body of work asserting that to speak out is a political act that resonates beyond the individual, and is essential for both personal and cultural healing.
Each image is conceived of as a solitary performance, a mining of the unconscious captured on film. Renee works alone with a vintage Yashica camera and a remote shutter release, placing themself into a dramatic California landscape of redwoods, ocean cliffs and the historic houseboat the SS Vallejo. Resisting a literal re-staging of events, Renee uses the camera to approach a tangled web of defiance, shame, rage and desire, creating a collision of feeling that juxtaposes the body with unexpected uses of color, light and composition.
Renee situates their story within the histories of radical feminism, queer identity and the ongoing political struggle against patriarchy. Through a written piece that accompanies the exhibition, Renee weaves connections between theorists like Judith Butler, artists like Ana Mendieta, and stories passed down by their own mother and grandmother. Navigating between the lived experienced of violence to the female body, and the idea of gender neutrality as an alternative, Renee asks the question is abuse the legacy of all women? And if so, what do we risk when we raise our voices against it?
Rowan Renee (b. 1985) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Their work in photography, sculpture and installation confronts dominant narratives of power and oppression. Their most recent solo exhibition, “Z”, explored gender ambiguity through nude ambrotypes with transgender, cisgender and a spectrum of gender non-conforming individuals. In the past year Renee has received The Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship, the Rasmuson Foundation Artist Residency and the Ossian Arts Fellowship. They have been profiled on NPR, in The New York Times, VICE, and Hyperallergic among many other publications.