Susan A. Barnett
June 23 – July 31, 2012
For Susan A. Barnett a t-shirt is not simply a casual way of dressing, it’s about “identity, validation and perception.”
“I look for individuals who stand out in a crowd by their choice of the message on their back and for those people willing to pose for me,” says Barnett.
A series of her photographs, Not in Your Face, is featured in The Atelier Gallery at the Stoneham Theatre in Stoneham, MA, May 23 through July 31. An opening reception is June 21, 6-7:30 p.m. The exhibit runs parallel to the theater’s production of “I Capture the Castle.”
In Barnett’s photographs, she says, “We witness a chronicle of American subcultures and vernaculars which illustrate the current American identity.Each one of these people reveal a part of themselves that advertises their hopes, ideals, likes, dislikes, political views, and personal mantras. ”
Barnett says t-shirts – such as ones worn in support of Trayvon Martin, a young man shot in Florida – can become part of a movement. “It performs a function of identifying an individual’s social location, instantly,” she says.
By photographing people from behind, she says, “I attempt to explore the premise that by photographing from the back – where body type, stance, and demeanor are the focus – can we still characterize it as a portrait? Does the back of our body tell us something about our identities as much as the front pose can?”
And, by assembling the images of people wearing t-shirts — with varying pictures and words — in grids, Barnett says she “aims to reveal both the similarities and differences of each peer group and explore their unique patterns and themes.”
“I believe the power of each portrait’s meaning becomes apparent from the juxtaposition of many images,” she says. “It is a universe of individuals, but when seen in groups they create a picture of our time without the imposition of judgment. Is this democracy at work?
“We may feel we know more about these individuals than we really do,” Barnett says. “Here their individual mystery is preserved and the power of photography can celebrate our urge to unravel it.”
Barnett studied at Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY, and at the School of Visual Arts in NY. For 12 years, she was associate director at Perls Gallery on Madison Avenue. She has exhibited widely and her work has appeared in many publications.