arwe art

BACK BUTTOCK STOOL

Ongoing series started 2016

“Back Buttocks Stool” subverts the tradition of portraiture by focusing on the back. These photographs challenge us to reconsider what parts of our bodies reveal the most about our identity. The backbone is so crucial to our body and the systems that support it, and here it is elevated rather than overlooked. The connotations of having someone’s back turned to you, the trust and intimacy it indicates, lend an emotional weight to these portraits as well. With the figures’ heads down and out of view, they appear at times introspective and at others distraught.

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“Back Buttocks Stool” subverts the tradition of portraiture by focusing on the back. This series of photographs features models seated on a stool, nude, facing away from the camera, their heads leaning down so far that they are out of view.  Initially, these figures are perceived as anonymous, but the project challenges why that should be our perception. Why is identity so conflated with being able to see the face? Our backbones are the core of our structure, and here we see them as graceful lines marked by each vertebrae. The most vital aspects of our bodies flow through this backbone; our nervous system, fluid that powers the brain, the mechanisms that enable all of our sensory and motor skills. It is supported by some of the most important muscles in our bodies and, in turn, supports our head and our minds. From this perspective, our backs capture more of our essence than even our faces could.

The framing of their bodies and the poses they take are reminiscent of sculptors like Rodin or Brancusi, with a lens of admiration for the musculature and bone structure of the human figure in and of itself. That’s not to say that these portraits are without emotion, however. The figures’ varying postures reveal a wide range of feelings. Some appear proud, introspective, while others seem weary, even distraught. Without looking at each other face-to-face, the sitter loses their self-consciousness from the eye of the photographer. They can be at ease and relax fully into who they really are. There is also a deep sense of intimacy in a portrait from this perspective. Biologically, showing your back to someone is a sign of trust. If you’re seeing someone’s back, it means they feel safe enough around you to let their guard down. In this vulnerable position, they allow you to observe their back for as long as you desire, uninterrupted by feeling their own gaze on you.

In these ways, these photographs strive to upend our notions of portraiture, identity, and humanity.