June 4 – August 10, 2019
“The Rug’s Topography” began with me photographing my intimate partner of six years. Simultaneously, we were facing an internal conflict: how we identified as individuals differed from the roles we occupied in our partnership. As we began to grow apart romantically, our anxieties rose in response to the distance widening between us. Our individual identities within a romantic context stemmed from the commonality of both having witnessed predominantly cisgender roles during our formative years. Our performance of those expectations was perpetuated by inexperience and an impulse to adhere to, or in my case “correct,” our potential family structure. Recognizing a shared inherent foundation opened our dialogue and together we began unpacking our preconceived notions regarding societal norms. Collaborating visually to express our reflections served as a catalyst for the reconciling of our emotional intimacy in the midst of separation. It is through the juxtaposition of gaze and gesture we create blended self-portraits, expressing our emotions in relation to who we were and who we’ll become.
My photographs employ themes of tension, voyeurism, and transition to represent interpretation of self. I construct images that balance organic intimacy and cinematic theatricality by implementing symbolism, color theory, and seductive lighting. Using a directorial approach and a single subject allows me to create an environment that transforms viewer into voyeur. The singular vantage point and lack of reciprocal gaze invites one to silently observe an unfolding narrative. However, the personal account is never fully described and the viewer must bring their own history, biases, and prejudices to interpret the imagery. Transition within this work is highlighted through the notions of gender and time. Though the viewer is privy to feminine interventions placed upon the male figure, faint physical changes sequentially manifest in the subject. Rigid musculature and posture is overcome by delicate and poetic gestures; the manicuring of body also becomes a form of sublimation. The ambient photographs, which signify fleeting moments, mark points of personal evolution. Emphasis is placed on the threshold between public and private, as well as the implied or literal mirror embodying introspection. Life comprises moments navigating both the literal and psychological space; my intention is to render that dichotomy.
Rana Young is an artist and educator based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Rana holds an MFA in Studio Art from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where she was an Othmer Fellow and a BFA in Studio Art from Portland State University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, as well as published online by Hyperallergic, VICE, Huffington Post, British Journal of Photography, and The New York Times, among others. Recently, Rana was selected as a winner of Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward 2018 and LensCulture’s 2017 Emerging Talent Awards. Rana launched PHOTO–EMPHASIS, an online platform for highlighting contemporary works made by photography educators, students, and practitioners, with Alec Kaus in June 2017. In collaboration with Kris Graves Projects, Rana released her first monograph, The Rug’s Topography, in January 2019.