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Karen Ostrom

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The ‘holidayinhope’ Project is in part, about the desire to create ones own utopia. In the early part of the last century, hundreds of Scandinavians flocked to the North West Coast in search of remote idyllic environments to build their own societies. Modestly following in the footsteps of my grandparents who were part of this final wave of utopian-minded immigration, I have conceptually modeling my own perfect village in response to this impulse. My village however, is fictional and situated on the web, where it could be considered both remote and accessible.
The Fisherman, 2003  40 x 30in
The Fisherman, 2003 40 x 30in
The overall framework of the project is the development of a fictional fishing village with characters that are the key by which you understand the relationships and structure of the town. Presented as photographic tableaus, the characters are derived from my conscious and subconscious perceptions, desires and experiences.
Big Game, 2004  Installation view @ Snakeshow, NY.
Big Game, 2004 Installation view @ Snakeshow, NY.
               The Execution, 2004  30 x 30in
The Execution, 2004 30 x 30in
The Glovemaker, 2004  40 x40in/ Handgloves, 2005
The Glovemaker, 2004 40 x40in/ Handgloves, 2005
And although I play all the characters in a series of private performances, my interest has not been in upsetting gender roles but examining those to which I subscribe my subconscious expectations and exploiting those with the freedom to which I can play each myself. Inspired by works of historical painters such as Artemesia Gentileschi, George de La Tour, and Manet, and then executed in a manner reminiscent of the tableau vivant, I undermine this familiarity with an accompanying story that, although makes sense to the scene, does more to elaborate on the psychological make-up and condition of the characters. What is perhaps the most apparent condition of the citizens are that they are identified by their employment within the town of Hope as well as the somewhat traditional roles they occupy; the Doctor as male, the Seamstress as female, the Fisherman as male etc. The contradiction here, however is that the Doctor is not male, only portrayed as such by a woman and that the Seamstress is the same male character that is portrayed by the body she creates. This process sets up a series of gender related interpretations.
The Seamstress, 2001  40 x 30in
The Seamstress, 2001 40 x 30in
Although the work resists a 'cross-dressing' reading, there is still a sense of roll playing that occurs with cross-dressing. What does it mean that I am playing both parts in this narrative and that the gender defines the difference? The resulting ambiguity becomes not only perverse, but the crux of the work.
Karen Ostrom
New York, NY
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