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Rebecca Bird

March 11 - April 21, 2017
Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

Monumental paintings of two groups of women occupy opposite walls of the gallery. The scale of the works evoke the tradition of History Painting, reenactments of moments for the historic record, once considered the highest genre of painting based on the importance of the subject, the acts of great men.  These works contrast with History Painting in that the moments depicted are mundane and the figures unknown.


One is of contemporary, accessorized young women, backs turned, enclosed in a circle of belonging and looking toward a vanishing point that is hidden from view.  The glowing white of the figures suggests a marble sculpture but specifics of fashion render the moment particular, trite rather than timeless.  Facing them are the female members of a family, posing for a photo in mid-20th century rural America. While the family portrait captures a single moment there is also a sense of continuation, perpetuity and the cycle of life.  The figures range from infancy to old age, they suggest a array of options, roles to be filled. Their gazes are frank.


Situated between these two images I wonder how two things have changed in the intervening years:  the act of being female and the act of posing for a photograph.  The images typify the independent kind of historic record made possible by home photography, that made by families and individuals for their own purposes, to create a record of their existence and appearance. I immersed myself in examining these photos minutely in order to consider what is invisible and unspoken, what is the weight and contour of my specific role in society.


Counterposed to these are two "Screen Memory" paintings of the same nuclear bomb test, from a photograph taken sometime between the dates of the two photos of women.  In my work explosions represent a subjective and interior experience of trauma, inherently disproportionate and immeasurable.  The process of recreating this image multiple times implies the process of retelling and construction in memory.  The title refers to Freud's theory of Screen Memory, an individual's construction of a false memory or cover story to replace an anxiety producing memory.  In this case "screen" also refers to film, national and popular history superimposed over private or domestic history. 

February 2017

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