Having worked as a fashion photographer, I began this series as a way to resolve the personal issues I have with creating images that perpetuate such a narrow acceptance of female beauty and sexuality. This series culminated as I sought to channel my experience within that industry with my knowledge of the darker side— the body manipulation, the exploitation of young girls, the message that women need to fit such a narrow beauty ideal— and subvert those ideals. I’ve seen women objectified in many different ways, from unwanted sexual advances to cruel criticisms of their bodies. We are inundated with images created in an atmosphere where that treatment is acceptable. Here I push back with an alternative to add to the collective unconscious, where all women are glorified, not just those deemed worthy due to their youth, size, and conventional beauty.
My medium is digital collage, and my process involves photographing women in studio, allowing them complete autonomy in their poses. I then photograph paintings in museums and weave together the ideal elements from Old Master paintings to suit each woman.
My choice to incorporate paintings alludes to Andre Bazin's arguments in The Ontology of the Photographic Image where he concludes, "So, photography is clearly the most important event in the history of the plastic arts. Simultaneously a liberation and an accomplishment, it has freed Western painting, once and for all, from it's obsession with realism and allowed it to recover its aesthetic autonomy." These paintings I have chosen created idealizations and illusions which I juxtapose with the credibility and reality inherent in photography, while referencing the psychology of how we have viewed nudes and the female body in a historical context, and how we view them today. Nudes of women by women are glaringly scarce in the museums from which I source my paintings, a fact that I’d like to draw attention to by referencing the museum setting.
As I continue this exploration, my work has begun to address religious art in the context of a canon of art history that expunges women and a religious history that subjugates women. Art and spirituality are the two most important things to me personally, and it pains me to see women’s contributions diminished in both. I am fascinated by the cross-cultural and historical significance of women's home altars and rituals, due to their historical exclusion from sacred/ religious spaces and positions of power within religious institutions. I’d like to bring to light forgotten women martyrs and leaders, and challenge the erasure of goddesses by the power structures of the Patriarchy and the monotheism that have dominated Western Civilization.
As history perpetually repeats itself, and extremists threaten our rights and autonomy as women and as humans, I am inspired by the practices of Spiritual Movements of the 19th century. The American spiritualist movement aligned with the suffragist and abolitionist movements, and as radical women took on leadership in religious spaces they were encouraged to fight for leadership in the public realm as well. Following their lead, I explore the idea of 'Divine Inspiration' by seeking inspiration through hypnosis, meditation and divination. My materials speak to the elevation and visibility of 'domestic'/women's space, using vanity mirrors, dressing screens, fire screens and furniture as triptychs and frames for the work. By bringing these interior realms into the public sphere, and shining light on the erasure of powerful women, I hope to contribute to a more just perception of art and history.
About Anna Cone
Anna Cone is a Brooklyn-based photographer and digital collage artist. She received a B.A. in Art History and Studio Art from the College of Charleston, and a diploma of Professional Photography from Speos Photographic Institute in Paris. She has exhibited in galleries and fairs including 4heads Governors Island Art Fair, The Untitled Space, New York, and Providence Center for Photographic Arts. She is stimulated by psychic readings, 70s vampires and witches, old master paintings, surrealist films, 19th century Spiritualism, radical women and the body.