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Distributed September 27, 2004
Contact Mary Jo Curtis

October 4–29, 2004
Sarah Doyle Gallery Presents Exhibit by Photographer Deana Lawson

The Sarah Doyle Women’s Center will host a new exhibition of work by photographer Deana Lawson, titled “Matters of Grace,” in its gallery at 26 Benevolent St. The exhibition opens Monday, Oct. 4, and continues through Friday, Oct. 29, 2004. There will be an artist’s reception Thursday, Oct. 7, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Both the exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Artist Deana Lawson is fascinated by the contradictions between the faces we present to the world and the internal conflicts we struggle to keep private. She will portray those contradictions in her new photographic exhibition, “Matters of Grace,” which will be on display in the gallery at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center Oct. 4–29, 2004.


Matters of Grace
Photographer Deana Lawson explores her subjects and their surroundings, looking for contradictions between public appearance and private complexities – a “leakage” of the hidden self. Ellie, right, was taken in 2004.
Photo: Courtesy Bell Gallery

Lawson uses environmental staged portraits of African-American women and girls to explore the possibility of meanings through photographic representation. The photographs in the exhibition were taken in Providence and Rochester, N.Y., during a two-year period (2002-2004) as part of Lawson’s thesis work for an M.F.A at the Rhode Island School of Design.

“It was important in this body of work to discover a visual poetics using black women as the focus point, since I found that little existed for this particular group elsewhere,” Lawson says. “As a child, I lived and interacted in a predominately female domestic space, which influenced my choice of subject matter for this project. The women and girls in this series are ordinary people – both strangers that I have met at church or the local supermarket and my own family members. They are seen everyday, in all walks of life.”

Lawson manipulates both the appearance and surroundings of her subjects in her photographs, directing their costumes, placement, pose and facial expressions to portray the contradictions between public appearance and private complexities.

“Who the individuals appear to be in this body of work, and who they are in reality, lies somewhere between truth and fiction,” she says, noting that her strong directorial hand stems from a desire to reconfigure reality. “Childhood memory and adult perception are underlying themes and motives that support my work. The sensitivity to decoration exhibited through dress, pose, and environment are ways in which I insert my own psychological perspective into the picture.

“The idea of secrets fascinates me,” she adds. “The body and its daily presentation, its adornments, and its composure are containers of secrets. [These poses] are ones that I think are graceful, sophisticated and dignified.”

The subjects’ poses often conflict with their environment or facial expression, which Lawson says can suggest “struggle, tragedy or longing – all the things that are supposed to be hidden in our public presentation of ourselves.” She believes that if viewers scrutinize an individual and his or her environment closely, they will begin to notice “sites of leakage.”

“These sites are the uncontrollable domains of the self where the internal leaks into the external world,” she explains.

Lawson grew up in Rochester, N.Y., where she currently resides. She received a B.F.A. from Pennsylvania State University in 2001 and an M.F.A. in photography from R.I.S.D. in 2004. Her work has been exhibited at R.I.S.D. and will also be shown at the Woman Made Gallery in Chicago next month.

There will be a reception for the artist Thursday, Oct. 7, 2004, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the center. Both the reception and the exhibit are free and open to the public. The Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, located at 26 Benevolent St., is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (401) 863-1781.


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