Jewish Artist: Sally Mann Tweaking the Clichés

Sally Mann is an American Jewish photographer. In 2019, under the supervision of Sarah Greenough and Sarah Kennel, Sally Mann’s major exhibition was the highlight of the Musée de Paume.

Originally from Lexington, Virginia, Mann’s deep love for her native land and her own complex heritage has led her to create consistently beautiful and compelling experimental photography.

Her photographs take up and correct major themes: memory, desire, death, family ties through portraits, still lives, and landscapes of the southern United States.

Sally Mann’s visions of children, sometimes naked, cannot lead to confusion. Despite of the absence of Puritanism – they are seen without any ambiguity – there remain dense optical elements that question and challenge. The cliché becomes the falsely passive model capable of deciphering the stereotypical messages of advertisements or of certain male photographers with a much more malicious gaze.

Sally Mann develops the photography of pre-pubescent girls according to an order of disappearance and rebirth. An obsolete alphabet book evaporates on contact with a plastic overturn. From an offbeat inspiration arises a feeling of uneasiness by shifting from nudity to a world that is scandalous at first glance, but which calls for a different logic that is accessible through the photographer’s boldness.

She pursues and deepens not only the history of nudity but also its language by weaving a whole network of poetic correspondences. We witness an almost hypnotic, artistic incantatory pythagorism. It goes beyond the signifier/signified dichotomy to highlight the “atomic” rather than merely anatomical aspect of the body. In her own way, the artist corrects the twisted alphabets of nudity, breaks the figuration admitted for metamorphosis. A soft figurative violence rejoices: not in order to crucify the world but to put in image an anxiety and a beauty.

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