Art + Science: Blood and Kin: Michelle Rogers Pritzl
Michelle Rogers Pritzl is an artist based in New York. In her series Not Waving But Drowning, she visually gives voice to the psychological torment endured within the confines of her former marriage. Many people make sacrifices in order to keep family together or to adhere to others’ expectations. It takes strength and courage to cut the ties of family bonds and reveal unseen and unjust conflict. Pritzl makes the invisible circumstances of her past visible. In addition, she turns internal feelings into open conversations to promote healing for herself and others.
Not Waving But Drowning
Not Waving But Drowning is a look inside an Evangelical marriage. These images show the truth of a life lived in the confines of oppressive gender roles, cult-like manipulation, and the isolation of Fundamentalism.
Each image is equivalence for the unseen, for the reality behind facade. Despite the smiles and appearance of perfection, Complementarianism is an abusive system in which a wife serves her husband as a helpmeet, remains silent, and prays for her spouse to become a better man. The man is the head of the woman, and the woman is to do what she is told. Even her body is not her own. Because churches worship the institution of marriage as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church pastors put the institution above the people in it. If a woman leaves, she will be shunned.
I use self-portraiture to share my own experience within the Fundamentalist Lifestyle without being explicitly autobiographical; I unmask what is beneath the veneer of “perfect” marriages and families. My chosen medium of collodion used with contemporary digital media represents the outdated behaviors and rules imposed on women by Fundamentalism.
The title of the series is taken from the Stevie Smith poem by the same name. The title suggests a kind of frantic despair beneath the surface of a smiling, perfect demeanor. It represents the woman who smiles every Sunday while protecting her husband with silence and prayers for change.
Michelle Rogers Pritzl was born and raised Southern Baptist in Washington DC area. She fell in love with photography in a high school darkroom and has been making images ever since. Pritzl received a BFA from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in 2001, a MA in Art Education from California State University in 2010, and an MFA in Photography from Lesley University College of Art, where she studied with Christopher James, in 2014. Her work explores the tension between past and present in our psychological lives as well as the photographic medium itself, often working in a digital/analogue hybrid and using historic alternative processes.
Pritzl has been widely exhibited in New York, New Orleans, Fort Collins, Boston and Washington DC, as well as internationally. Pritzl was a Critical Mass Top 250 finalist in 2013, 2014, and 2017; she has been featured in Lenscratch, Fraction Magazine, Diffusion Magazine, Lumen Magazine, Shots Magazine, Your Daily Photograph via the Duncan Miller Gallery amongst others.
Pritzl has taught photography and drawing in both high school and college for the last 12 years, including as an adjunct instructor at Lesley University College of Art, and leading workshops at the Griffin Museum of Photography and Vermont Center for Photography. She lives on a farm in the Finger Lakes with her husband John and their son.
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