Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Katarzyna Majak, Women of Power @Porter Contemporary

JTF (just the facts): A total of 9 color photographs, framed in brown and matted, and hung in the single room gallery space. Each of the prints is sized 32x22 and available in an edition of 10+2AP; no process information was given, except that the prints are on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308. The works were made in 2011 and 2012. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: As a country dominated by Catholicism, Poland isn't a place that is particularly tolerant of alternative mysticism and spirituality. Katarzyna Majak went searching for local women who were thought to possess traditional wisdom or healing power, and uncovered a broad spectrum of underground beliefs. Her portraits capture witches and whisperers, druids and coven leaders, each a representation of female knowledge passed down from generation to generation, outside the normal pathways of organized religion.
In each image, the subject poses in washed out brightness, squarely centered against a white background and staring directly into the camera. The women are wearing various forms of ceremonial clothing (or nothing at all) and each holds a symbolic object thought to contain some kind of spiritual power. The combinations range from the quietly regal to the outlandishly kooky: a geometric poncho and a seashell, a brown sack cloth hooded cloak and a scythe (held by black fingernails), a strapless black dress with a long silver dagger and scabbard, and a colorful knitted blanket and a wooden pipe. Chunky necklaces, glass balls, amber beads, feathers, and plastic flowers all make an appearance, but Majak's portraits never waver from a dignified, almost saintly respect.
While this show could be easily characterized as a lineup of oddballs and outsiders, the photographs resonate with calm confidence and knowing seriousness; these women believe in their own power, and from that conviction flows the energy that they pass on to others. Majak's project is both varied and self-contained, tying all of these loose ends of spirituality into one neat package.
Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced at $1800 each. Majak's work has no secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail is likely the only option for collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Reviews/Features: Huffington Post (here)
Through July 14th
548 West 28th Street
New York, NY 1001

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