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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Meghan Boody

New York,
USA

Meghan Boody creates manipulated photographs and multi media sculpture of girls and young women in terrifying settings. Her subjects are usually adolescents who continuously have to make choices about who they are as they cast off the trappings of girlhood and become women. She grew up in New York City and went to the Brearley School. She received a B.A. from Georgetown University in philosophy and french, and apprenticed with the photographer, Hans Namuth, for three years where she received her photographic training. Boody began integrating Photoshop and digital compositing into her work in 1994 and is considered one of the first photographers to successfully employ this new technology. Her large scale photographic tableaux tell fantastical stories of female experience and explore the wilderness of the subconscious and the tumult involved in psychological transformation. Comprised of hundreds of interwoven layers, each image depicts an elaborate imaginary environment where female characters in period dress roam through tentacled narratives. In March 2011, Boody had two simultaneous solo shows in NYC: the complete Lighthouse series at Affirmation Arts (which traveled to Galerie Caprice Horn in Berlin in April) - and “Psyche and Smut”, a photo novella of twin sisters lost in an underground city ruled by frogs and concubines at Salomon Contemporary. Recent and upcoming shows include “Inspired’ curated by Beth de Woody at Steven Kasher Gallery, “Magical Realism” at the Houston Center for Photography and “Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination” at the Frist Center for Visual Art. Her work is in important collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Herbert F Johnson Museum at Cornell University.

Feminist Artist Statement

As I struggle to find my way in the world, I create phantom women and girls from another time who undergo parallel investigations of the self. As they embark on character-transforming quests in strange lands, I grapple with my own life, and our pitfalls and successes along the way guide and inform each other. My subjects often begin their wanderings lost and alone, Bambi’s blinded by headlights and babes in the woods. They stumble into predicaments and compromising situations as they explore the outer reaches of female territory. Body image, appropriate feminine behavior, youth and beauty preservation, power dynamics in male/female relations, desire of rescue and the search for true love, all these fraught issues and potential quagmires form an obstacle course where my urchins and heroines learn how to shape shift and transform into more complete selves.

<p>Night is generally my time for walking</p>

Night is generally my time for walking

From the series, “The Lighthouse and how she got there,” 2006 - present.

The Lighthouse pictures take place in a 19th century Anglo world of Dickensian institutions and vast moorlands and tundras where urchins and strays struggle to find their way. The digitally composited series tells the story of an adolescent girl, the inmate of a workhouse / asylum who wrestles with her burgeoning body and her desire to flee the menial confines of her existence. After a catastrophic fire destroys the institute, she wanders through barren countryside where bogs threaten to swallow her whole and sheer cliffs impede her progress. The titles of each piece - which are derived from the first lines of Victorian novels with orphan protagonists – provide clues to the plight of the lost child star who narrowly escapes disaster and soldiers on. From image to image she gradually gets her bearings as she approaches the lighthouse, her ballast and lodestar that beckoned to her from her dormitory window in the asylum. In one ending of the story, she is taken in by the lighthouse keeper. In another, she falls prey to swampy secretions and decay while resting in a field. A third version has her coming back to the rebuilt institution as the favored ward of the superintendant while acting as a double agent and escaping with a rag tag girl posse across the sea. The girl gains resolve and pluck (and grows up literally) over the course of the series. She started being photographed at 12 - she is now 16.

Night is generally my time for walking

From the series, “The Lighthouse and how she got there,” 2006 - present.

The Lighthouse pictures take place in a 19th century Anglo world of Dickensian institutions and vast moorlands and tundras where urchins and strays struggle to find their way. The digitally composited series tells the story of an adolescent girl, the inmate of a workhouse / asylum who wrestles with her burgeoning body and her desire to flee the menial confines of her existence. After a catastrophic fire destroys the institute, she wanders through barren countryside where bogs threaten to swallow her whole and sheer cliffs impede her progress. The titles of each piece - which are derived from the first lines of Victorian novels with orphan protagonists – provide clues to the plight of the lost child star who narrowly escapes disaster and soldiers on. From image to image she gradually gets her bearings as she approaches the lighthouse, her ballast and lodestar that beckoned to her from her dormitory window in the asylum. In one ending of the story, she is taken in by the lighthouse keeper. In another, she falls prey to swampy secretions and decay while resting in a field. A third version has her coming back to the rebuilt institution as the favored ward of the superintendant while acting as a double agent and escaping with a rag tag girl posse across the sea. The girl gains resolve and pluck (and grows up literally) over the course of the series. She started being photographed at 12 - she is now 16.

East O’ the Sun, West O’ the Moon

From the series, “The Lighthouse and how she got there,” 2006 - present.

The Lighthouse pictures take place in a 19th century Anglo world of Dickensian institutions and vast moorlands and tundras where urchins and strays struggle to find their way. The digitally composited series tells the story of an adolescent girl, the inmate of a workhouse / asylum who wrestles with her burgeoning body and her desire to flee the menial confines of her existence. After a catastrophic fire destroys the institute, she wanders through barren countryside where bogs threaten to swallow her whole and sheer cliffs impede her progress. The titles of each piece - which are derived from the first lines of Victorian novels with orphan protagonists – provide clues to the plight of the lost child star who narrowly escapes disaster and soldiers on. From image to image she gradually gets her bearings as she approaches the lighthouse, her ballast and lodestar that beckoned to her from her dormitory window in the asylum. In one ending of the story, she is taken in by the lighthouse keeper. In another, she falls prey to swampy secretions and decay while resting in a field. A third version has her coming back to the rebuilt institution as the favored ward of the superintendant while acting as a double agent and escaping with a rag tag girl posse across the sea. The girl gains resolve and pluck (and grows up literally) over the course of the series. She started being photographed at 12 - she is now 16.

“With a single drop of ink for a mirror, the sorcerer undertakes to reveal to any chance comer far reaching visions of the past.”

From the series, “The Lighthouse and how she got there,” 2006 - present.

The Lighthouse pictures take place in a 19th century Anglo world of Dickensian institutions and vast moorlands and tundras where urchins and strays struggle to find their way. The digitally composited series tells the story of an adolescent girl, the inmate of a workhouse / asylum who wrestles with her burgeoning body and her desire to flee the menial confines of her existence. After a catastrophic fire destroys the institute, she wanders through barren countryside where bogs threaten to swallow her whole and sheer cliffs impede her progress. The titles of each piece - which are derived from the first lines of Victorian novels with orphan protagonists – provide clues to the plight of the lost child star who narrowly escapes disaster and soldiers on. From image to image she gradually gets her bearings as she approaches the lighthouse, her ballast and lodestar that beckoned to her from her dormitory window in the asylum. In one ending of the story, she is taken in by the lighthouse keeper. In another, she falls prey to swampy secretions and decay while resting in a field. A third version has her coming back to the rebuilt institution as the favored ward of the superintendant while acting as a double agent and escaping with a rag tag girl posse across the sea. The girl gains resolve and pluck (and grows up literally) over the course of the series. She started being photographed at 12 - she is now 16.

Psyche’s Tail

From the series, “Psyche and Smut”

Psyche and Smut is a tale of psychic metamorphosis which follows the relationship of Psyche, a polite, pinafored little girl and her deviant and dark twin sister, Smut. Adopting the sisters as dueling agents of female duality, the series wends its way through labyrinthine territories of a writhing subconscious. Equally imbued in the worlds of Dr. Freud and Dr. Frankenstein, the narrative unfurls like a freewheeling analysis of dream imagery – the product of a mind attempting to reconcile it’s warring factions and rebuild itself.

The story begins with Psyche who lives a sheltered life in the Upper East Side of New York City. After a troubling altercation with her mother, she falls into a trance and resurfaces in an underground city ruled by frogs and their concubines. Rumor has it that Smut is part of their gang and lurks in the vicinity. Spurred on by this news, Psyche resolves to find and make amends with her exiled twin; and thus the quest begins.

Psyche endures many trials of transformation as she grapples with her shadow. At one point, she grows a rat’s tail; at another, Smut takes off a mask to reveal her ravaged and blemished skin, and Psyche teeters on the precipice of accepting or rejecting her flawed twin. Buffeted by libidinal tides of attraction and repulsion, the twins gradually close in on each other. Finally, the two agree to a double death of mutual absorption. A magnetic force field envelopes the twins and fuses their identities to create a resplendent, integrated whole: Psyche Supernova.

Psyche Supernova

From the series, “Psyche and Smut”

Psyche and Smut is a tale of psychic metamorphosis which follows the relationship of Psyche, a polite, pinafored little girl and her deviant and dark twin sister, Smut. Adopting the sisters as dueling agents of female duality, the series wends its way through labyrinthine territories of a writhing subconscious. Equally imbued in the worlds of Dr Freud and Dr Frankenstein, the narrative unfurls like a freewheeling analysis of dream imagery – the product of a mind attempting to reconcile it’s warring factions and rebuild itself.

The story begins with Psyche who lives a sheltered life in the Upper East Side of New York City. After a troubling altercation with her mother, she falls into a trance and resurfaces in an underground city ruled by frogs and their concubines. Rumor has it that Smut is part of their gang and lurks in the vicinity. Spurred on by this news, Psyche resolves to find and make amends with her exiled twin; and thus the quest begins.

Psyche endures many trials of transformation as she grapples with her shadow. At one point, she grows a rat’s tail; at another, Smut takes off a mask to reveal her ravaged and blemished skin, and Psyche teeters on the precipice of accepting or rejecting her flawed twin. Buffeted by libidinal tides of attraction and repulsion, the twins gradually close in on each other. Finally, the two agree to a double death of mutual absorption. A magnetic force field envelopes the twins and fuses their identities to create a resplendent, integrated whole: Psyche Supernova.

Sweet Thumbelina don’t be glum

From the series, NY Doll (Tales of an Ice Queen)

In the opalescent slivers of cracked ice lay the Goddess, blue lipped and anemic, waiting to enfold her pursuer in her frigid embrace. She didn’t mean any harm. She had only followed the rules.

Access to the Kingdom of Beauty, Purity, and Light did not occur over-night. Bloated affect, brooding beast-like, needed to be tamed, strained and bottled. She began shaving herself of all extra flesh and blotting the furrows from her brow. She applied refining face masques. The resulting beige regularity required constant maintenance, but there were many establishments ready to help. Such service centers offered the finest techniques in cyborg care and mechanization. Here the interfering mind was swiftly siphoned off and neutralized. The more innovative centers injected replacement material at regular intervals. All the better to erase you with.

She was lucky. Equipped with a casing similar to the standard model and a penchant for somnambulism, she barely noticed her newfound stature. Until people started to look at her as she mouthed through the glass. Fear firmers and force feeding are fine for a while, she liked to say. But in the end, selves must be dismantled quickly and painlessly. The others eyed her shell enviously, watching her carcass petrify.

I’ll never grow up was her mantra as the pack ice reached it’s shiny tentacles inside her.

Snow white, sewn tight, please grant the wish I wish tonight.

The Mice & Me

A young girl lying on a bed of moss gazes out of a steel enclosure. Drops of drool trickle from her mouth and pool in a surgical dish, the drinking reservoir for the live mice inside, and she holds seeds to feed them. I originally conceived the piece to show the ravages of time as the mice gradually gnawed at her body and garments, but I couldn’t bear to see her defacement. So now I put the mice in for special occasions.

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