Sarah Conaway — A head, a drawing, a nose, a wall, a painting, a cloud.
Most of my recent photographic work is studio based and constructed for the camera. I typically avoid photographing things in the “real world” because the studio works feel more “real” to me. But the images presented here were taken in that “real world,” on walks, around my house or wherever I noticed some weird little thing. In a sense, I think of these as “found” photographs. Does every photograph make an assertion about photography? I would say that within each of these photographs is a partial refusal of its “photograph-ness.” I admit to a certain ambivalence on this topic; in fact, that ambivalence may be the topic of this series.
In spite of this ambivalence, I have taken a series of images over the past two years of things that are inexplicably compelling for me. Look at the way those sticks lay just so. Those markings on that door look like a Japanese brush painting. I can call some of them drawings or paintings or sculptures. I can say that that one looks like a cloud. Is that a nose? But what am I doing really? It is playful, performative. But perhaps the series reveals a deeper need, hides that deeper ambivalence, or suggests a more tenuous relationship to “truth.” Am I avoiding saying what they really are? But I can’t say what they really are.
These images speak to me. They act as reminders, recognitions, returns. The language of photography and art—of categories of objects and materials that I have created in my studio—is reflected to me in the “real world.” These little smudges, hair, and pieces of trash make a case for themselves and their significance. It is as if something out there—in language or forms, in these objects, in these scenes—presents itself to me. Where do these ideas, these forms, come from? Does this world of form, of language, reside in the camera, in the objects, or in the mind?
Sarah Conaway received her MFA in photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001 and a BA in philosophy from Bucknell University in 1994. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at The Box, Los Angeles; Barbara Seiler Gallery, Zurich; and Bellwether Gallery, New York; and in group exhibitions at Centro de la Imágen, Mexico City; Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris; Richard Telles Gallery and Night Gallery, Los Angeles; Taka Ishii Gallery Modern, Tokyo; and the inaugural edition of the biennial Made in L.A., at the Hammer Museum in 2012.