Sabrina Srur

Open Casket

I became obsessed with a photograph of my mother as a model in the ’80s. It made me wonder about the vulnerability and pressure of having to portray beauty and femininity. By photographing myself, I explore the space I occupy among women in my family. I draw inspiration from gestures in my mother’s archive—an elongated neck, clothes from her first date with my father—all of which incite new ways of performing for the camera. Both fear and celebration of aging and transformation, of loss of life and future life, impact my approach to self-portraiture.

The mythological image of that young woman (my mother) introduces a gone-yet-desirable element that functions as a trigger for the construction of still lifes in the studio, similar to the vanitas of the seventeenth century. During my grandmother’s funeral, I understood that my choice to incorporate flowers in this project deeply references the celebration of death. The negative is the basic element of photography; it holds the reproductive aspect of the medium and symbolically problematizes my ability to renew my family’s legacy. I combine these symbolic elements with others that introduce an artificiality that wonders about beauty as a constructed value.

Open Casket relates to the loss of control (or illusion of control) over what other people think about me. Artistic practice, itself, exposes one to be judged over time, even after we are gone. Self-portraiture and still lifes become open caskets for viewers to read. The project awaits final judgment to learn whether or not it will face its second death.

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