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Rania Matar
Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Rania Matar, ''Becca P, Brookline, MA,'' 2009, pigment print, 28 x 42''.


Continuing through December 2, 2012


In "A Girl and Her Room," Rania Matar, like Sally Mann and Jock Sturges before her, paddles into the precarious estuary where girlhood and womanhood intermingle. The Lebanese-born artist, who since 1984 has resided in the United States, photographed a cross-section of American and Middle Eastern adolescent girls in the sanctuary of their bedrooms. Here, presumably, they are at their most unguarded and sincere, even as they preen before the camera lens in search of the validation all of us, regardless of gender or age, seek. 


Slumped provocatively over a chair, clad in short-shorts and a spaghetti-strapped tank-top, "Christilla, Rabieh, Lebanon" gazes at the viewer through one eye, the other hidden beneath a cascade of dark-rooted, bleached-blond hair. "Emma, Brookline, MA" reclines languidly upon a mess of dirty laundry, while "Shannon 21, Boston, MA" pins her dreadlocks, baring her tattooed back to the viewer. Then there are "Becca G, Winchester, MA," sprawled on a leopard-print bedspread under a canopy of drapery, as if reenacting a hackneyed odalisque fantasia, and "Becca P, Brookline, MA," applying makeup while gazing into a lighted mirror, her face hidden from the viewer — a mute, expressionless archetype of aspirational beauty. 


Throughout the exhibition, the performative imperative of identity-building asserts itself:  that sui generis melange of burgeoning sexual assertiveness and residual petrified insecurity endemic to adolescence in all human beings. Whether a photographer is snapping away or not, girls and boys will strike their poses to simultaneously define and mask the self. Matar illuminates this dynamic with sensitivity and insight.

Blue Sky / Oregon Center for Photographic Arts

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