“The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominately in the heart.” -Tennessee Williams, from scene 1 of “The Glass Menagerie,” 1943
On March 7th, Autoversion Ltd presents Ashley Reid’s “Imitation of Life”. The scene is a suburban California middle class living room, circa mid-1980’s. Through memory and obsession, Ashley Reid recreates a time in her life spent in the care of her grandparents. It was a time that symbolized blinding happiness and hard-won transformations – and a personal history lost after the unexpected death of her grandfather. The artist has installed in the gallery a multimedia exhibition portraying this history. It blends found objects from her grandparent’s house with photography and painting – and features Reid’s fiery “self-portraits” posing as pictures hung on her grandparent’s walls.
“Imitation Of Life” takes its name from Douglas Sirk’s classic mellow drama from 1959. The film grew to become a cult favorite, in part due to its depiction of a black woman passing herself off as white. Although the artist’s struggle with cultural identities three decades later didn’t warrant such extremes, Reid’s imitations of Snow White, Marilyn Monroe, and John Wayne reveal a continuation on Sirk’s “white-face” theme. A quote from the artist: “I come from a mostly light skinned family, Papa was white – and I’ve been raised in mostly white communities. A lot of the images that I grew up with at Nana and Papa’s house were of white pop icons. Appropriating these icons represents a love for something that has nothing to do with my particular black culture. It’s an assimilation that I have lived with my entire life.”
Aside from capturing moments that define cultural assimilation, Reid’s “Imitation Of Life” examines how people are molded by past experiences. In “Funeral,” a church interior adorned with stained glass and gold crosses hovers behind an open-faced coffin with the artist’s grandfather in it; in an untitled black and white portrait, the sunlight peers through an opening garage door blindsiding a young girl holding an inflatable ball. Reid’s photography has the ability conjure up anyones haunted childhood memories, yet it does so with a gust of fresh air. It captures time and change. It recreates memories that are slightly disturbing – “yet seated predominately in the heart.”
Ashley Reid’s “Imitation Of Life” is on view through April 19th, 2008 at Autoversion Ltd.
The artist lives and works in New York City. Solo exhibitions include Nowhere Gallery, Milan, Italy (2006 & 2007). Group exhibitions include United Black Girls, Rush Arts Gallery, New York (2007), Ridykeulous Participant, Inc. New York (2006) and Bearings: The Female Figure, PS122 Gallery, New York.