Haley Jane Samuelson
Press Release: Another Room
June 25, 2009 – September 12, 2009
31 Howard Street, Floor 2 New York, NY 10013
In Haley Jane Samuelson's series Another Room, she dissects the dualities and conflicts of her inner landscape as she sits on the threshold between youth and adulthood. In these works, there is a visible and palatable struggle as she confronts phantoms of the past, present, and future. There is deep exploration into her personal relationships and her attraction to defining herself through others. Samuelson is a fraternal twin and it is not surprising that as she transitioned away from home she was drawn to creating intimate relationships that simulated the one with her sister to an extent that physical similarities are seen. Recently, Samuelson altered her look by going blonde and her boyfriend wanted to as well, but because of an already inherent likeness in their appearance he opted not to. In previous series, her work featured both herself and her boyfriend in the apartment wthin the rooms they shared, but in this series she is featured solo. The need to define herself through another is a question she seeks to understand and in this work perhaps we see her moving towards understanding herself alone.
Performative in essence, Samuelson's work is influenced by both the staged qualities of Cindy Sherman as well as Sally Mann's ability to photograph her own life in a non-documentary style. Moreover, the self-portraits created by Francesca Woodward during her brief, but prolific life in the seventies and early eighties have been a heavy influence on Samuelson. As Woodward used the body as the tool to externalize the internal, Samuelson does so. Both also portray the feminine figure in a sexually innocent and unassuming manner. The work's theatric quality makes them feel all the more like frozen moments not unrelated to the idea of a photograph as a small death of a moment, a mood, or even a bit of the soul. In the early phases of photography, subjects were hesitant to have their portrait taken because they feared the camera was stealing a bit of themselves. We have come far from this superstition, but analytically and metaphorically it is a theme integral to the work of many photographers.
Samuelson uses natural light and works solely in the confines of two rooms in her apartment. She takes the same rough shot over and over until it reaches her goal of the figure defining the space to convey her inner thoughts in concrete form. The space is maximized by setting scenes using her belongings as iconographical objects and changing the wallpaper for every shot. A record player, a balloon, her boyfriend's shirt, or a birdhouse are all metaphorical symbols from Samuelson's life. In particular, the birdhouse is an homage to her grandmother who was the only other artist in her family and painted intricate, photoreal birds on plates.
Overall, the work considers the neurosis of a single individual and within that invites the viewer to reflect on their own private relationship with their external and internal worlds. It reminds us that we all have the answers to life's questions within ourselves; perhaps, we simply need to get quiet enough to hear them. Change is inevitable and contemplation necessary. We must remember though that fighting with ourselves is like civil war; if it drags on too long, you inevitably lose because essentially you are fighting yourself. While straddling the things that bind, it is important to remain whole. One gets the sense that the subject in her work is on the verge of bursting. While this might seem dire in the moment, the moment is brief and can be understood as a point of renewal and opportunity. In a quest for self-awareness, it is necessary to consider facts, rather than get swept away by emotion.