Untitled, 2000

Tiernery Gearon’s children run wildly through her photographs. She waits with her camera, trying to find the right moment to click. Poses and situations are not set up, although props are added to what at the outset was a documentary record of the artist’s family. What look like snapshots are carefully-caught compositions that uncover something strange in suburbia.

Gearon reanimates mythological imagery and using the detail of American Life, stages impromptu performance. Her imagination roams through myths and legends. A girl changes into a wolf. A boy poses as a statue which comes to life. Men become birds. Through play-acting and disguise, children hide from the world or rearrange it to their own liking.

Gearon shows us how the shifting divisions between childhood and adult life evaporate, just as in Lord of the Flies. In an empty Texan landscape two children look at a dead animal by the roadside. The boy removes the mask of a fox and play is interrupted by a disturbingly real event. Innocence and the grotesque mix happily together. Her slice-of-life set-ups shift into strange rituals. A boy swings a giant Barbie doll around in the snowy setting of an Alpine village. Is this a child’s game or a charade of adult violence, a foretaste of how some men will behave towards women? Gearon incorporates the surreal elements of everyday life into her work. She uses a documentary style to liberate her imagination. The naturalism of photography gives an assurance that the oddball nature of the artist’s vision is understandable, even shared.

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