Clara Jeanne Reed, Landscapes of Desire, digital photographs, 2020
For this project I turned my sister into a doll. I dressed her up and built elaborate stages for her to perform on. She embodies characters of the past in an effort to contextualize my own present in a mediated project of self-portraiture. She becomes a mother, a sister, a lover, a daughter, a wife, and a woman. All of these characters are suffering from some kind of suppression of autonomy. Ophelia, only an object of interest after her death. Clytemnestra, mourning the death of her daughter by the hands of her husband. Salome, conditioned to only be seen as an object of desire. I have questioned the historical legacy of femininity, beyond aesthetics, for a long time. This project is a result of that, it is an ongoing investigation into female experiences of the past and present.
"Before this moment I said many things to suit my purposes. I'm not ashamed to contradict them now. How else could I act on my hate for such a hateful man, who feigned his love, how else prepare my nets of agony so high no one could jump them? I've brooded on this struggle many years, the old blood feud. My moment's come at last, though long delayed. I stand now where I struck, where I achieved what I set out to do. I did all of this. I won't deny the fact."
Aeschylus' Oresteia, 5th century BCE
"Friends, countrymen, my last farewell I make; / My journey's done. / One last fond, lingering, longing look I take / At the bright sun. / For Death who puts to sleep both young and old / Hales my young life. / And beckons me to Acheron's dark fold, / An unwed wife. / No youths have sung the marriage song for me, / My bridal bed / No maids have strewn with flowers from the lea, / 'Tis Death I wed.'"
Sophocles' Antigone, 5th century BCE
"When down her weedy trophies and herself / Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide, / And, mermaid-like awhile they bore her up, / Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds, / As one incapable of her own distress / Or like a creature native and endued / Unto that element. But long it could not be / Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, / Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay / To muddy death."
Shakespeare's Hamlet, late 16th century
"Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion. I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity away from me. I was chaste and thou didst fill my veins with fire..."
Wilde's Salome, 1891
"I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it was great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it was great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been.
I must try and educate myself-you are are not the man to help me in that. I must do that for myself. And that is why I am going to leave you now.
I must stand quite alone, if I am to understand myself and everything about me."
Ibsen's A Doll's House, 1879
"Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America. God, it’s been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so."
Kushner Angels in America, 1987