I found a small print of Whistler’s Arrangement in grey and black: portrait of the painter’s mother (1871) among a pile of discarded objects at a garage sale.
I started thinking about the evocative potential of portraiture. After salvaging several other items from other garage sales, I knew I was onto something: a leopard coat and hat, a 1950s cat painting, and a similar chair to the one in Whistler’s painting.
The resulting portrait series reinterpreted the painting through the salvaged props and a mix of traditional photography with hand-painted elements.
My proper yet hilarious 85-year-old mother was a willing model. But she could not understand why anyone would be interested in seeing her dressed up as Elvis or wearing a bathing suit.
Our time together making over 20 ensembles was profoundly meaningful, as she passed away before seeing the finished series. The fact that this series would be exhibited and published worldwide would have delighted and amazed my mother.
Aline Smithson is a visual artist, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. Growing up in the shadow of Hollywood, her work is influenced by the elevated unreal.
Smithson has exhibited in over 40 solo shows at various international institutions.
Her work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker and Photo District News. She is the founder and editor-in-Chief of Lenscratch, and the author of the photobook LOST II: Los Angeles and recent monograph Fugue State (Peanut Press).
Smithson has received commissions and awards worldwide, including a series of portraits for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s upcoming ‘Our Planet’ exhibition and the Taylor Wessing Prize (National Portrait Gallery, London).
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