Dawn Woolley’s Unusual Self-Portraits Address Female Stereotypes

Dawn Woolley Dawn Woolley Dawn Woolley Dawn Woolley

Dealing in an atypical kind of self-portraiture, Dawn Woolley often creates photographic copies of herself, and then photographs them in various locations, positions and moods.  Making herself a substitute and her visual representative, the work forms an inquiry into the act of looking, and being looked at.  As she says of the work, “Referring to psychoanalysis and phenomenology I examine my own experience of becoming an object of sight and also consider the experience the viewer has when looking at me as a photographic object. By producing artwork that establishes me as an object it could be argued that I reinforce stereotypical images of the female body.”  Indeed, the female body is a common subject of Woolley’s work, often playing with stereotypes through reinforcing them, or defying them.

In series, such as The Substitute, Woolley created a photographic copy of herself and placed it in the real world in her stead.  Seeking to reinforce conventional images of the female body, but with apparent exhibitionism, Woolley created a replacement that rendered her real body invisible.  The sense of disbelief for a viewer is slow to materialize, as our brain wants to see an actual 3-dimensional person.  The effects are similar even when both individuals are cutouts.  Selecting moments in her past, Woolley’s series, Adolescence gives her some distance from emotionally heightened events by re-creating them using photographs.

The ambiguousness of her work allows Woolley to play with assumptions about gender, and conventions of photography.  There is a performative aspect to the work that is ultimately completed by the viewer.  A viewer feels like a voyeur, and then, after realizing he is looking at a 2-dimensional depiction of a 2-dimensional photograph, a fool for being duped.  An interesting way to examine gender roles and self-portraiture, Woolley’s images are challenging and provocative.

 

Dawn Woolley Dawn Woolley Dawn Woolley Dawn Woolley Dawn Woolley Dawn Woolley

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