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Frances Wasn't a Saint

2018 - 2021

performance photograph

pigment print on aluminum panel

Through attempts at self-portraiture, I inadvertently summoned a visitant. Her name is Frances.  She is not a persona, nor is she my alter-ego.  Frances is a ghost; visiting often, she seeks form through possession. I allow her to inhabit me, to guide me in making us a world within a world, creating environments to contemplate the horror of manufactured desire and the beauty of imagined futures.  In these worlds, we come up against the terror and brutal beauty embedded in myths of purity.  Together, we float in and out of consciousness, knowing the “childhood terror of the written-upon body.”  Together we confront the historical gaze.

Upon further contemplation,  I have come to understand that Frances, when captured in a photographic still, or slow-moving image, transforms into an iconic figure for my time.  There is room for every individual to see more in the icon, to bring their own nuanced, layered experience and interpretations to what Frances offers.  Is she a saint?  a protector? an overseer?  Is she a reflection or a shadow? The ideal icon represents all that is, and that which is always in a state of becoming. Frances defies the historically celebrated mute mother image of patriarchal religious tradition.  She shows us how to leave the static frame of social construction and enter the world at will.   The portrait icon is no longer a window into heaven, but a window into the soul. 

Essay by Monica King: Rites of Refusal, 2023

Untitled Frances No.13_2019.jpg

Untitled No. 13,  34  x  48 in, ed 2 of 3

Solo Exhibition
Monica King Contemporary
New York, NY

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