“A friend of mine told me years ago, when you hit forty you will see yourself age by the day. I didn’t make much of it then. When I was 42 I still looked pretty, men used to turn around to take a look at me, younger men. And then suddenly… I don’t like myself in pictures anymore. I had many photographs of me, I destroyed them all…”
These words were spoken by Julia, a woman I met while scouting models for this project. We never did have our photo shoot but her statement stuck with me, it struck a chord, perhaps because she was the first of all the women I interviewed and photographed to that point, who was so frank with me. And though not all of us destroy photographs with our image and perhaps many of us still make the heads of young men turn, it dawned on me that her confession was the shadow cast by the ‘Julia’ in all of us.
It is no secret that the socially dominant obsession with youth as a foremost token of beauty and glamour yields grim and often unseen consequences. Respectively, a female over forty is rarely portrayed in any role other than that of a mother, a wife or a ‘still sexy’ celebrity. Does this mean that a woman over forty ceases to be anything else but a ‘social servant’, or must she occupy the status of an idol to be recognized by the mainstream or even art‐related media? And, moreover, where do such classifications place the single, childless and ‘fameless’ woman if not on the very margin of society?
While aging is not a ‘disease’ its implications, at least in part, render it its worthy double. Eastern philosophy approaches the fact of ageing with the advent and application of remedies that may not cure the ‘disease’ but which at least allow room for the preservation of the ‘patient’s’ dignity, whereas in our society aging is a disease that is swept under the rug in the plastic surgeons office or is tucked away in the psychiatrist’s drawer. It is a weak seam in the fabric of life that can be accepted only if ignored, tolerated only when patched over or temporarily reinforced with the poke of a needle. It is a stigma, a scarlet letter that every woman who is or isn’t a cancer survivor, must wear on her breast. And yet, the greatest burden of this disease lies invisibly on the heart. And how many women do we really know who can wear their heart on their sleeve?
The conviction that the more interesting abrasions are not of stone but of flesh is one of the guiding principles for the Woman in Heat series: a candid confrontation with the dismal and sublime phase of life where such abrasions first become apparent.
The title of the project draws on the paradox behind a notion that is as inherent to the natural world as it is degrading in the social context. The so‐called ‘woman in heat’ is no longer a woman whose rising body temperature connotes the prosperity of life, but one whose new kind of internally generated heat signifies its definite and gradual decline. But as all destruction leads to creation, this woman enters a phase of discovery fueled by a drive for self‐revelation.
It is not in the scope of this project to challenge the gods of advertising, to march forth with the troops of feminism or show how ‘sexy’ a woman over forty can still be. Rather, it is to ask: how do mature women today see themselves and how do they want to be seen? If ‘sexy’ translates to ‘sexually desirable’, do women whose desire for sex decreases still want to look sexy? Do they confront this new phase peacefully or turbulently, and what could their body language reveal to the naked eye of the camera?
Die Ausstellung “Woman In Heat” läuft noch bis zum 29. April in der Carpentier Galerie, Meinkestr. 13, Berlin.