Siri Kaur: She Tells All
As an artist, I am interested in the unique power of portraiture to elicit this performative nature of identity – Siri Kaur
Los Angeles artist, Siri Kaur has always been drawn to those who seek slightly out-of-the-norm lifestyles, perhaps that curiosity and understanding comes from her childhood perspective of growing up in an American Sikh ashram in Boston in the 1970’s. Her early projects focused on populations of impersonators, performers, and athletes, individuals who shape their identities in unusual ways. Her newest project, She Tells All, is an investigation into the crystal-ball worlds of occult spiritual practices as she photographs the Modern Witch, particularly in Southern California. Siri recently had an exhibition at the Eric Butterbaugh Gallery in Los Angeles, with installations of neon signs inspired by similar signage found on psychic storefronts. She paired these elements with her photographs to create an experiential environment, which included sessions with some of the oracles.
Siri Kaur (b. Boston, MA,1976) is an artist and photographer who examines identities that occupy dualities, diversity, and contradiction, with a rigorous eye for the photographic quality of magic. She received her MFA from The California Institute of the Arts, and an MA and a BA from Smith College. Kaur’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Blythe Projects, Cohen Gallery, and Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles; at 99¢ Plus, New York; at the Vermont Center for Photography, and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Group shows include those at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Aperture Foundation, the Portland Museum of Art, the Camera Club of New York, the Torrance Museum of Art, and the Museum of Photographic Arts, among others. Kaur’s work has been reviewed in ARTFORUM, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. She was a Professor of Fine Arts at Otis College of Art and Design from 2007-2018. In 2014 Leroy Press published Kaur’s first monograph, This Kind of Face, that documented the world of celebrity impersonators. She lives and works in Los Angeles.
She Tells All
The concept of witchcraft, a wide-ranging system of beliefs that engage and explore our connections with nature, with the unseen, and with magic, is a tool we can use to find meaning in dark times such as in America today, when many of us have given up hope. There are questions in this world without answers, and answers without questions, yet we still yearn to know all. In She Tells All the power of the divine feminine shines from my images, where diverse and resplendent women stake their claim to be seen and to hold forth their light to illuminate a path for our future.
The title of this project references a psychic storefront sign I discovered on my journey through the occult community of Los Angeles: TELL HER NOTHING SHE TELLS ALL. The sign calls to mind both the skeptic, who doubts the power of the clairvoyant, and the power of divine feminine energy that I claim as my own. The consequence is a timely and revealing look at contemporary mystics, material culture, and the nature of identity itself.
My impetus to document and explore physical manifestations of the performative nature of identity originated as I was growing up in an American Sikh ashram in Boston during the 1970’s New Age movement. Through my group’s all-white turban-clad dress code, I experienced firsthand the physical performance of identity. As a transplant to LA, I immediately felt the connection between my unusual Northeastern New Age upbringing and LA’s unique and magnetic counterculture.
As an artist, I am interested in the unique power of portraiture to elicit this performative nature of identity. In She Tells All I engage questions of identity performance by exploring an ever-present and wildly diverse American identity: the modern American witch. Witches are contemporary practitioners of the ancient tradition of paganism, which includes multiple and diverse religious and spiritual beliefs centered on nature worship and humans’ innate connection to magic. I photographed these individuals in the context of their material world, where I found commonplace identity markers such as crystal balls and burning incense denoting the mystic. My portraits reveal more than just performance and costumery, as the presence of real human identities emerge rich with complication and wild with an intangible otherness that engages a range of viewer, the enchanted and the skeptical alike.
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