Included in: Boston 2014
Category: Streets

Susan A. Barnett: Not In Your Face

Artist’s Statement:

In the series Not In Your Face the t-shirt is starkly evident but these photographs are not about the t-shirt per se. They are about the stories of people who tell their own story. I look for individuals who stand out in a crowd by their choice of the message on their back. The messages are combinations of pictures and words that are appropriated from contemporary culture but have the unique effect of mixing up meanings and creating new meanings. On the streets these personalities create their own iconography that explore the cultural, political and social issues that have an impact on our everyday lives.

I am influenced by the typologies of August Sander and the Bechers. The work of Barbara Kruger and Martin Paar have no doubt had an effect on my thinking and my vision.

In these photographs we witness a chronicles of American subcultures and vernaculars which illustrate the American identity. These photographs demonstrate how these individuals wear a kind of badge of honor or trophy that says “I belong to this group not the other.” Each one of these people reveal a part of themselves that advertises their hopes, ideals, likes, dislikes, political views, and personal mantras.

By photographing from the back I attempt to challenge the time-honored tradition of the portrait being of the face and test whether body type, dress and demeanor can tell us just as much as a facial expression might.

When assembled in grids I aim to reveal both the similarities and differences of each peer group and explore their unique patterns and themes. I believe the power of each portrait’s meaning becomes apparent from the juxtaposition of many images. It is a universe of individuals but combined creates a picture of our time without the imposition of judgment. In these photographs a conversation is struck with each personality and an intimacy is created. We may feel we know more about these individuals than we really do. Their mystery is preserved and the power of photography can celebrate our urge to unravel it.

Artist’s Bio:

New York, NY

When George Harrison arrived in New York for the Beatles’ historic visit he was carrying a Pentax Spotmatic as he descended the airplanes steps. I was a devoted fan and soon bought the same Pentax and began to photograph my everyday life such as it appeared to me.

My love of t-shirts began in the Seventies when I was known for silkscreening t-shirts and posters to protest the Vietnam War. After an internship at the Cloisters the Medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art I was employed at the Perls Galleries, a historic gallery on Madison Avenue where I worked for fifteen years as Associate Director.

I was lucky enough to handle one of a kind Picassos, Braques, Legers, Matisse and Modigliani. I worked with Alexander Calder planning and installing exhibitions and cataloguing his work. I continue to act as a consultant in the art world today.
I returned to the School of Visual Arts studying graphic design with Milton Glaser and Paul Davis while continuing to take pictures on the streets of New York City.

Not In Your Face was born by photographing in the streets of New York. I found I was oftentimes standing at a corner with those who chose to wear a message on their back willing to advertise their affiliations, likes and dislikes.