The Stepford Collection

Photographer Angela Strassheim applies forensic skills to documenting unspoken longings

Placid and composed, 15 large scale photos by Angela Strassheim convey a sense of calm with something brewing beneath. Many of the subjects in the photos are Strassheim’s born-again Christian family but their roles remain undefined. With investigation, the viewer is pulled into the tug of war beneath the perfect surface where questions of desire, innocence and belief swirl. A recent MFA graduate in photography from Yale University, Strassheim is also a certified forensic photographer.

With deceptively simple compositions, these light-filled photos seem informed by Vermeer and old master paintings. Fearless in their revealing light but ultimately enigmatic, the works focus on people, settings and relationships. The orderly and often sterile settings imply outward perfection. A contented business man sits behind his desk with a religious book; a child, seated behind the bath, helps to wash her mothers hair. All seems well in paradise. Three of the 15 photos are people-less––one shows a fish tank, another a sofa with curtain, the third, a perfectly made double bed with one pillow. All of these photos, even those without people, carry a certain clinical feel that cannot disguise underlying desire.

The exhibition title; “Left Behind,” resonates in several photos “Untitled,” 2004, shows a young girl, in a short pink dress, standing on her tiptoes on the window ledge gazing out. Is the girl longing for something or has she been left behind? The photo of the artist’s grandmother, “Untitled,” 2004, shows the deceased resting in a pink glow with matching coffin and outfit, her body left behind after life.

In “Untitled,” 2004, a preppy father, clean and starched, stands behind the sink and in front of the lens as if a mirror. The father is combing the hair of his young son who appears to be a clone in a matching outfit. A perfect suburban McMansion in “Untitled,” 2003, shows its matron standing regally in bathrobe before the formal stepped entrance.

The use of real subjects to inhabit fictional photographic space give a twist to the relationship between surface appearance and the truth of the scene portrayed. Questions of values, beliefs, desire and possession speak to society’s loss of innocence in the post 9-11 era. These distinctive photos offer the viewer a peek at a perfect world. You will only run into to trouble if you question what you see.

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