In the spring of 2020, our lives were drastically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of this public health crisis were rapidly felt on all levels of society—the economy, education, travel, work. Routines changed as entire cities implemented stay at home orders. The experience of indoor and outdoor space quickly changed for people around the world. This exhibition presents new works by Lebanese American photographer Rania Matar (b. 1964) whose practice investigates personal and collective identity. These images capture the nuances of specific individuals while at home in quarantine. The series, which began with Matar reaching out to friends to take their portraits while at home, has become a community project. Responding to her need to connect with others, Matar captured more than one hundred people who agreed to pose for her. Matar established a connection with her subjects photographing them through a door or window.
These works encourage the viewer to reflect on how we relate to each other. As Matar explains, “It feels as if the news is always dividing us as “them v/s us”, and now here we are a “we”: all in this together, in the same boat, with life at a standstill and reduced to the confinement of home. This virus is such an equalizer, making us all re-evaluate our shared humanity, our fragility, and our priorities.”
Evocative and insightful, the photographs capture a moment of “connecting across barriers,” that emphasizes the collaboration between photographer and sitter: “As the weeks went by and the “new normal” settled in, the portraits started transforming with the window almost acting like a stage and people on the inside becoming active participants in the photo session, bringing their ideas and their performances to the interaction we were creating.” This exhibition is organized by the Cornell Fine Arts Museum in collaboration with the artist.
This exhibition is made possible through a generous gift from Wayne and Patricia Jones in honor of their 50th anniversary.
Image: Rania Matar, (Lebanese American, b. 1964), Minty, Kayla, Leyah, Layla, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2020, Archival Pigment Prints on Baryta Paper, Image Courtesy of the Artist