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Sam Taylor-Wood: 'Ghosts'

DATES October 30, 2010 through August 14, 2011
COLLECTIONS Photography
  • Sam Taylor-Wood: Ghosts
    Ghosts, by Sam Taylor-Wood (British, born 1967), is a photographic exploration of Great Britain’s uniquely atmospheric Yorkshire Moors. The series is inspired by Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s gothic Victorian romance, in which the author’s descriptions of the rugged landscape transform the setting into one of the novel’s major characters.

    For many years Taylor-Wood kept a country house in the same West Yorkshire region where Emily Brontë (1818–1848) and her celebrated family, including sister-writers Charlotte (1816–1855) and Anne (1820–1849), lived and drew inspiration for their novels and poems. In the ten images from Ghosts displayed here, Taylor-Wood captures the stark, mutable, and remote character of the windswept moors and gray skies near Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse thought by some to be the inspiration for the house called Wuthering Heights in the novel.

    On a freezing day in March 2008, the artist braved sleet and wind to trace a route along the footpath from Haworth Parsonage, the Brontë family home, across the moors to Top Withens. In Ghosts,Taylor-Wood delineates the variously subtle and dramatic shifts in sky, light, and wind near the ruins. The photographer’s gaze frames this bleak landscape without direct human reference, furthering the sense of spectral isolation that remains a constant across the more than one hundred and fifty years since the novel was written.

    Catherine J. Morris
    Curator
    Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
  • Exhibitions in the Herstory Gallery of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art explore the continuing significance of the women named in The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, among them Emily Brontë. Sam Taylor-Wood’s Ghosts illuminates the fascination that Brontë’s masterpiece continues to inspire in contemporary artists.

    All quotations printed here are from Wuthering Heights, published in December 1847 by Emily Brontë under the pen name “Ellis Bell.” Like many women writers of the time, Emily and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, adopted masculine pseudonyms to avoid prejudice against female authors. In 1850, two years after Emily’s death, the novel was reprinted, this time under Emily’s real name, and with a new preface by Charlotte. You are welcome to peruse copies of the full novel, available in the Forum nearby.
  • June 30, 2010: Sam Taylor-Wood’s 2008 photographic exploration of the Yorkshire moors, Ghosts, is the latest exhibition in the Herstory Gallery of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. On view from October 30, 2010, through August 14, 2011, the series was inspired by Emily Brontë’s classic Victorian novel, Wuthering Heights, and its legendary atmospheric descriptions of the bleak, wild landscape.

    For many years, Taylor-Wood kept a country house in the same West Yorkshire region where Emily Brontë and her famous literary and artistic family lived. Drawing inspiration from the Brontë sisters’ gothic romantic fiction, the artist followed the footpath from the stone parsonage where the Brontës lived and died up across the moors to Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse and the alleged setting of Wuthering Heights. In her photographs, she captures the stark and haunting character of the windswept moors and gray skies surrounding the area of Top Withens.

    An English filmmaker, photographer, and conceptual artist, Taylor-Wood creates works of art that examine contemporary social and psychological human conditions by placing her subjects in enigmatic and highly stimulating situations. Her pieces often capture situations in which the sense of self is in discord.

    Taylor-Wood has gained international fame with solo shows in Barcelona, Zurich, London, Washington, D.C., Milan, New York, Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Montreal. In 1997, she was nominated for the Turner Prize and received the Illy Café Prize for Most Promising Young Artist at the Venice Biennale. Her short film of 2008, Love You More, received the Short Filmmaking Award Honorable Mention at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Best Short Film at the BAFTA Film Awards and the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes International Film Festival. Her feature-film directorial debut of 2009, Nowhere Boy, was nominated for four BAFTA Film Awards, including Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer.

    Sam Taylor-Wood: “Ghosts” has been organized by Catherine Morris, Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, in the Herstory Gallery, a space devoted to subjects that explore the significant contributions of the women named in Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. Emily Brontë, along with her sister Charlotte, are featured names on the Heritage Floor of this monumental work of feminist art.

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Sam Taylor-Wood: Ghosts