When do we begin to develop who we are and how we are expected to behave? As children, we gather these identities and behaviors from the people who surround us and the cultures in which we live.
I was introduced to Diva, the seven-year-old daughter of a wonderful young Haitian/American woman named Fabienne Polycarpe, who worked as my studio assistant. My initial curiosity about Diva’s name began an intrigue that developed into a study of who she is and the similarities she shares with most young girls.
The theme of female identity of adult women that normally characterizes my work, now in this new series, gives way to a reflection on our childhood.
As we began our photo shoot, the dynamics of the relationship between mother and daughter, with one’s expectations and the others reactions, was obvious and reminded me of my own relationships with my mother, and my daughter. As Diva changed into various dresses, another interesting phenomena occurred; the more feminine the dress the more docile the behavior, and the more casual the dress, the more confident the behavior. Hence, the clothes, and how they drape an expressive body, play an important role in these character studies.
As the photographs transfigured into drawings and paintings, a myriad of personalities emerged. The Good Girl, Bad Girl label was an inevitable outcome. Assertiveness, a predominantly male associated trait, repeats itself often. Once again, handed down expectations of how girls should behave as opposed to how they might naturally behave is questioned.
As women continue to wrestle with predetermined definitions of themselves, my work continues to question these descriptions.