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'Grief and Joy' Cyanotypes

* Please scroll down past exhibition statement to see images*
A Note to the Virgin: Exhibition Statement on Stephanie Slate's “Grief and Joy’”
writen by Kristina Bivona

Unless you are the virgin Mary herself or fall into the ilk of folk art that has been fetishized and categorized into domesticity as non-art, good luck talking about birth and maternity in visual art. Like a black hole, this cosmic body, where not even light can escape, forms a specter of maternity in Stephanie Slate’s images of Grief and Joy on view at 356 Foundation from May 3- May 24th. The exhibition features a series of bleed-printed Prussian blue cyanotypes bleached and toned into bile of maternal feeling that consumes the virtue of motherhood into a psyche of ideology. These 34”x53” prints are complemented by four smaller photogravure prints made in letter size or smaller, creating a staccato of rhythmic being in visual form.

Slate contends with fear of loss and consummate love in deep blue, tannic browns, and graphic grays. The universal lineage of birth and death in Western consumerist society is moved away from a narrative of cleanliness in baby blue and powder pink items to a bile of psychology akin to the amniotic sac we were all once encased in. The images in sequence call us all back to the cadence of that fluid of the womb where a heart beats in unison with the potential for another life.

The intelligence of Slate’s specter is that it carries the taboo of motherhood away from the individual and allows a viewer to move through these works to transcend the codified respectability of maternity that shrink-wraps motherhood into an individualized and isolated experience. These are not socially acceptable portrayals of ancient, tatted lace by chaste nuns; they are not a dinner table set for every important woman in time or a popular artisanal birthing gift set. Instead, the ghostliness of these prints brings all viewers back to an immediate place of loss where, without the synchronous connection to another person, the drum of life will cease to exist forever.

We all remember the portal of loss within these dark and mysterious views of watery pear-shaped spaces. The impersonalization of ghostliness in Slate’s prints shifts the contemporary conversation of motherhood into a comprehensive ideological framework where the works of Sally Mann, Wangetchi Mutu, and Joel Peter Witkin all appear as influential marks in the service of the origin of life. Slate’s most recent works are on view in their full scale and collection at 365 Foundation from May 3 to May 24th in the presentation of Grief and Joy. Here, the viewer may enter a portal of their choice through twelve prints and if they remain quiet and connected as they traverse the series a de-identification may occur that alleviates the pain and isolation of individuality and returns us all to the pre-breath of the woman's power to create life.

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