Thursday, October 21, 2010

Leigh Ledare-Greater New York at PS1

Leigh Ledare’s photo series at the Greater New York show at PS1 features his mother as model. The photos depict her most often in the nude, genitals directed toward the camera and sometimes with a partner. The color photos seem faded and grainy, almost a nod to the quality of both 1970s family photo albums and 1970s pornography. Tina Peterson, once a talented ballerina poised for greatness became a stripper with an evident penchant for exhibitionism. She smiles and eyes the photographer; she is not aiming to seduce. She is displaying herself.

Perhaps considered by some to be tawdry or exploitative, the photos alone are not what is truly captivating about the show. The images are, of course, jarring given the relationship of model and photographer. This attention-starved exhibitionist mother is not the crux of the series. The star of the photographs is the relationship. If a person was unaware of the kinship of model/artist, would the photos be as captivating? As Ledare tells it, he showed up at his mother's house after not seeing her for over a year. She answered the door naked and lead him into her bedroom where there was a naked young man. This was Ledare's orientation and he accepted the invitation. Leigh began photographing her at her request to document her body and later, its deterioration. The staples of motherhood and age, stretch marks as well as the mark of gravity do not dissuade Tina from fully exposing herself. Vanity is not the only excuse. She is also shown nude after an accident in which she sports a neck brace. This was a jaunt through Oedipal territory via photography and while Ledare and Peterson never pose together, the other people in the photos are certainly surrogates. Nude self-portraits are a direct nod to the part he plays in this taboo endeavor. He sexualizes himself and in that, appears to play surrogate for his absent biological father.

In later photos, Tina no longer looks the fiery temptress. In a video on display, you can see she has aged, her face free of makeup and she looks truly beaten down by the path she has taken. She cries hysterically to her son who holds her as she weeps. The video does the job that the photos can’t quite communicate. The photos are unremarkable. The story is all.


  1. I agree that the relationship between Ledare and his mother is the dominant reason that these works are so intriguing. I like that you question whether or not these photographs would be as engaging were it not for this unconventional relationship that is evinced from the artist documenting his mother in explicitly nude positions. However, when you claim that “the video does the job that the photos can’t quite communicate”, I’m not quite clear as to what you feel the video contained that the photos failed to capture. Do you mean Tina’s dejection and grief or the atypical connection that she has with her son?

    Also, you may want to double check, but I believe that the image included in your review is actually of Ledare and his mother, which would contradict your statement that the two never pose together.

  2. I think this is a good review because it made me want to revisit the work. I had not remembered seeing this series of photos until I read this. Thinking back about seeing the pictures in person I remember being put-off. Now that I know the photographer is the main character’s son I am morbidly curious to know more. So, I agree that the relationship certainly makes the series more interesting. You not only see the actual images that are on display, but it makes you wonder about their day-to-day relationship - so dark and intimate and strange.

  3. I have just installed iStripper, so I can watch the hottest virtual strippers on my taskbar.