Who is Muybridge’s muse in the Dancer plate 187, from 1887? A lover, an acquaintance, a professional model, a stranger he had a dalliance with?
This simple question triggers a general discussion with the viewer about the types of relationship that artists have with their muses. Muses historically have been objectified, placed on a pedestal and translated into art forms for all to see and muse over.
In my earlier ‘Idylls of the Self’ series, I placed myself in the position of muses in Victorian masterpieces, created at a time when women had limited rights to challenge society’s perceptions of a woman’s role and how that can define who she is.
This collision of worlds – questioning the notion of what is the value of the object – ‘Muse’, is an enquiry that has led to this new piece for Kingston Museum. I have taken on the role of the artist’s muse, freezing a moment in time using cyanotype an alternative photographic technique, as Muybridge did in his first photographic movement sequences. In changing my persona, I create a personal connection to the new image.
What is my relationship with the photographer? Who is the photographer – the muse or the person operating the camera? Who controls the artistic process – the muse or the photographer? Who controls the muse?
Over a hundred years since Muybridge explored animal locomotion, this work creates a new archive of freshly frozen moments in time to inspire the viewer to generate their own stories and question their assumptions about the woman who was Muybridge’s muse in his dancer series and what happened to her.
‘The problem that has not name’. Betty Friedan. The Feminine Mystique. (1963)