Maxine Walker investigates and challenges conceptions of identity in photographs that depict moments of privacy. The photographs reproduced here are from an extended series Walker began as an Artist-in-Residence at Light Work in June of 1991. As we move across this suite of images, Walker, as director and main character, guides us through small details of information. In the image to the right we notice the subtle lines on her shoulders formed by the straps of a bathing suit, an intrigue for some and an affirmation for others that black skin responds to the warmth of the sun.
In the second photograph, Walker bathes a simple and pristine dressing table in a glorious light that seems too precious to disturb and too perfect to use. The elegant bottles carefully placed and cared for seem to be waiting, with the kind of anxiety produced by upscale magazine advertisements, for the fair and perfect model.
In the final image Walker is at the dressing table facing the camera as she applies a cream to her face. Walker now appears as character, artist and instigator changing the nature of the setting by creating a dramatic contrast of black and white. Like the rivulet of lotion that runs from the corner of her eye in the shape of a tear, the small details of information in this photograph continue to read with a broad sweep of questions .
Walker crafts an engaging tableaux that poses questions for the viewer about the role that cultural identity plays in the formation of barriers. Until there are answers that dissolve barriers and exclusions based upon class and race, we will always need to be reminded of the questions.
Maxine Walker lives and works in Birmingham, England.
Jeffrey Hoone (c) 1991