Chris Verene's 'Family,' on view at Postmasters, is a series of photographs depicting the artist’s poor, jobless, divorced, working-class yet very American family over a span of 26 years. Verene's exhibit portrays an unidealized, genuine reality that our ‘Jersey Shore,’ ‘Teen Mom’-obsessed culture just doesn't get to see.
Each wall in the gallery is devoted to a certain mix of characters, but the theme of deficiency and economic disarray pervades. Whether it’s shown as the laid-off divorcee who never quite recovers, or the young single mother who goes from living in her car to living in an abandoned restaurant, each picture displays this hidden sector of society that doesn’t live like your stereotypical American family.
The gritty photos of imperfect characters are accompanied by a written narration explaining the context. One photo depicts a father with his daughter at McDonalds. The caption definitively reads, “My cousin Steve with his daughter. His wife had just left them.” Another of an infant crying on a bare mattress next to a frying pan is the image that mnemonically sticks. Then, there’s the last picture of Grandma waving goodbye under an American flag.
As you go down the line of photos, the emotions rise and fall, but the characters never cease to be relatable and in ways entertaining—the Uncle that never moved out of Grandma’s or the overweight cousin you had to drag along on dates.
It’s a relevant show depicting the economic troubles of the American working class, and the end where Grandma America sends you off with a wave.