American artist, Katy Grannan’s series, The Westerns (2005 –ongoing), will be the launch exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery
’s new location at 16 – 18 Ramillies St, W1. Featuring over 30 large format colour portraits, the series depicts subjects the artist describes as ‘new pioneers,’ individuals living on the west coast of America who endeavour to define themselves under the scrutiny of an unforgiving Pacific sunlight.
The Westerns considers the American west as both a literal and metaphorical backdrop, where dreams and reality exist in awkward parallel. Gail and Dale are two middle-aged transsexuals and best friends whose carefully coordinated clothing, hair and nails reflect both a sense of escapism and their deeper need to be visible. Grannan documents their interpretation of femininity and the pleasure they derive from gender mimicry and performance. By contrast, Nicole is almost unrecognisable from one photograph to the next, changing from blond bombshell to boyish teenager, the images mirroring her ever-changing and reinvented persona. Also included are one-off portraits of Californians relaxing in the fertile landscape or reclining on the beach.
This series follows on from Grannan’s previous projects, included in her first monograph Model Americans (1998-2003), which depicted one-off, non-professional models posed within their local surroundings, found through adverts in local newspapers. In The Westerns Grannan has forged longer-term relationships with her subjects, working with them over a number of years. Developed after Grannan’s own move in 2005 from the east to the west coast of America, the works explore the uneasy relationship between fixed photographic portraiture and the shifting identities of the subjects.
Grannan thoroughly embraces her subjects’ vision of themselves, their interpretation of femininity, and the pleasure they derive from gender mimicry and performance. Through this approach her work readdresses the traditional power dynamic between photographer/sitter, director/actor while reflecting her ongoing interest in portraiture, performance, self-representation and landscape.
Katy Grannan (USA, 1969) lives and works near San Francisco. Her photographs have been exhibited in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and the 2004 Arles Photo Festival. She is a recipient of the 2004 Baum Award for Emerging American Photographers and her work is in collections including the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.