Excerpt from Blue Sky Gallery Blog – 2015 Pacific NorthWest Drawers

Though Tamar Haytayan’s images focus on the private sphere and the relationship between her daughter and son, the work also expands in meaning through text: each image is titled “Innocence,” while often picturing the darker, grittier sides of childhood. For instance, the first photograph, “Innocence 5,” from 2012, shows her daughter with a towel on her head in the kitchen, her face curled up in an indignant snarl. The foreground and background are shrouded in heavy black and the camera is slightly tilted, giving the image a disorienting, almost nightmarish quality. The literal darkness of the image, combined with the discomfort of the subject and the strange camera angle, undermines the ideal of purity, creating instead a more complex, often fearful and angry, depiction of childhood. The second image, “Innocence 1,” shows one of the artist’s  children’s hands draped over the lip of the bathtub. Grit lines the fingernails, and the monochromatic nature of the print masks the color of the hand: it could be muddied with dirt, but its dismembered quality suggests something more violent. Not all of Haytayan’s photographs fixate on such darkness: one image, “Innocence 7,” pictures a hug between the two siblings, with soft, sleepy light; “Innocence 2” shows her son with sun through the window illuminating his bright eyes, giving his face a painterly, classical quality. However, the two on display this week do highlight a trend in her work to subvert traditional ideas of childhood innocence, alluding to contemporaries like Sally Mann and harkening back to pictorialists such as Julia Margaret Cameron.

Both Drawers photographers on display this week incorporate text in ways that challenge the traditional duality of text and image, integrating them through literal photographs or through titles, and thus allowing the work to expand in meaning.

– Molly Walls

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