Sam Taylor-Wood: Portraits of Moments with Crying Men
Sam Taylor-Wood: Crying Men
Prior to being diagnosed with cancer eleven years ago, Sam Taylor-Wood was the darling party girl of Young British Art. Now, at the age of 41, Sam Taylor-Wood has become the British art world’s acceptable face: a mature artist with an A-list address book and, with her husband, Jay Jopling, a place at the new art establishment’s top table. Grown men have wept for her, but how will they remember her? She could have sat for Modigliani. Her long face, the slim figure, the strong, bony hands echo the left-field sensuality and elongated elegance of his models. There are hints of it in her own self-portraits, especially the strangely balletic Self-Portrait Suspended, which was made after she had filmed and photographed members of Great Britain’s Royal Ballet. This is a forgivable display of narcissism; a creative work that is evoked by a dream of swimming in air can hardly be a legitimate source of public outrage in the art world.
Taylor-Wood’s acclaimed earlier experimental short film, Still Life, in which a bowl of fruit was filmed slowly rotting away, is about mortality and life’s inevitable transience; her later work, Crying Men, is a treatise on the theme of sadness. Her new series of photographs in Crying Men attempts to capture the moment between the real and the unreal, the imitation and the authentic. By her use of celebrity actors as models, the viewer debates whether their tears of sadness (and therefore their emotions) are genuine. If the models were anonymous the question wouldn’t arise. It is a subtle challenge and typical of Taylor-Wood’s increasing degree of maturity as a visual artist.
Sam Taylor-Wood: Crying Men
BBC Interview: Taylor Wood about “Crying Men”
Pietà: An Icon of Exhaustion and Distress
In Pietà, Sam Taylor-Wood labors to support the draped body of Robert Downey Jr. Downey, laid out like Holbein’s Dead Christ in the Tomb, is presented in a manner that is so matter of fact, so drained of real importance, that the idea of death asserts itself with the chilled subtlety of a business card dropped on a dinner setting. Why him, one might ask, and for that matter, why her? Why ask, would be her likely reply. Taylor-Wood has appropriated widely in the past, from Atlas to Roman orgy scenes (updated to the present day) to Hollywood movies. Here, as elsewhere in her work, feelings of emotional and physical distress take the place of narrative. The Pietà becomes an icon of exhaustion and distress, in her hands. Or obversely, exhaustion and distress become iconic, if only by association.
Pieta: A World of Exhaustion and Distress
I Want Love: The Paradox of Love
Finally, seen from the bleak landscape of Taylor-Wood’s transient, sad, exhausting and distressing world, I Want Love, the Elton John music video produced by Taylor-Wood, becomes an awkwardly painful statement about the paradox of love. The desperate self says, “I want love, but I want nothing you do or say to affect me, I am who I am.” In its encounter with the other, the self wishes to affirm its absolute independence, even though its need for the other and the other’s similar wish give the lie to it.
I Want Love: Elton John, Acting by Robert Downey Jr.
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