In the series “Not In Your Face” the t-shirt is starkly evident but these photographs are not about the t-shirt per se. They are about identity, validation and perception. Each one of these people reveal a part of themselves that advertise their hopes, ideals, likes, dislikes, political views, and personal mantras. These individuals wear a kind of badge of honor/a trophy that say “yes, I belong to this group and not the other.”
By photographing from the back, this work challenges the time-honored tradition of the portrait being of the face and tests whether body type, dress and demeanor can tell us just as much as a facial expression might. In August of 2014, The New York Times called the photographs “T-Shirt Time Capsules” with an article titled “Watching Your Back and What’s On It”. This typology of over 1000 images presents a time capsule of the kind of messages that people are willing to share without fear of reprisal. These environmental portraits serve to ask questions about our own instincts, baggage and prejudices that occur in that split second of recognition.
In these photographs we witness a chronicle of global subcultures and vernaculars that illustrates the currents, issues and concerns of the Twenty-First Century. People now send me their t-shirt sightings from all over the world and share what are often times really funny messages no matter what the language.
Susan Barnett “known as the t-shirt girl“ chronicles the world one t-shirt at a time. After a long career in the New York art world she continues to provide art consulting services for select clients. However, it is her photography and the series Not In Your Face that has taken her to over 20 countries to date, participating in numerous solo and group exhibitions and fifteen festivals..
Her book T: A Typology of T-Shirts was published by Dewi Lewis, U.K. in 2015. Not In Your Face will be the subject of a solo show in the summer of 2017 at the University of Maine Museum of Art. She has lived in midtown Manhattan for over 40 years and can be found sailing in Hampton Bays, New York with her husband on weekends.
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