Rebecca Martinez: preTenders
I’ve been a long time fan of Rebecca Martinez’s work, first her capture of mannequins in Beauty Challenged, and now her three part series on the sub-culture of life-like babies in her series preTenders. At first, her first work with the dolls was humorous, photographing Carrie Fisher in a variety of unsavory scenarios, but as her project progressed, she has explored the community (conventions, baby showers, beauty contests, teas, collectors and artists in their homes and nurseries) that surrounds these stand-ins, with compassion and curiosity.
The work is part of a terrific exhibition, The Reality of Fiction curated by Mark Sink, as part of the Month of Photography in Denver. It will run through April 28th at Red Line Art. In June her work will be exhibited in UNCANNY at the University of Connecticut, Contemporary Art Galleries Storrs, Connecticut. Her photographs were also recently featured on the NY Times LENS blog. She has exhibited and been published widely.
Rebecca was born and raised in Los Angeles. She owned a graphic design firm in San Francisco that specialized in corporate ID and branding for most of her career and has now devoted herself to photography. Although she photographs many subjects, the majority of her work explores and documents artificial worlds and entities that represent us.
Who and what we chose to love comes in many forms. This series is the latest incarnation of my work that explores different aspects of artifice and our impulses to create illusionary objects and situations that fulfill various emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs.
Babies create strong emotions for the bearer, holder, and observer. I have discovered this holds true even when it is known the baby is not real. For several years I have been photographing the reborn community, a subculture of women who create, adopt and love dolls that look as close as possible to real babies. The dolls appear and feel in ones arms to be living infants. They create strong and palpable emotional reactions and provoke the biological instinct to nurture and the entire spectrum of human behavior. I call this work preTenders as one “pretends” that these dolls are real, one “tends” to the babies and there are “tender” feelings involved.
Many of the women involved have an especially strong passion for the stage of mothering babies and this is a method to keep this stage permanently in their lives. There is a wide range of personal stories and motivations for being involved in this community. Some create or collect these dolls because they cannot continue to give birth to living babies, or have lost a child, or cannot have one of their own. Some women admire the art form and are doll collectors, others create nurseries in their homes and integrate the babies as part of their families and lives.
For several years I have been attending their conventions and events such as baby showers, teas, and baby beauty contests. At the conventions one can adopt babies, purchase baby clothes and accessories, and attend the various social gatherings that focuses on sharing and admiring each mother’s babies.
The most recent part of this series as I have gotten to know individuals, I have turned my focus to intimate portraits. I am now photographing two different kind of portraiture. The first, I am photographing the babies with their families in their homes and at the artists studios where they are created. The final part of this series I am photographing the families with their real and not real children in a style reminiscent of a studio visit that a family would seek for a traditional portrait.
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