Dislocation: 400 Words on Beth Yarnelle Edwards
This piece was published as a “Critic’s Choice” Column in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. It can be cited here as: Buckner, Clark. “Dislocation: 400 Words on Beth Yarnelle Edwards’ Photography” www.clarkbuckner.com. Web. Day, Month, Year the post was accessed.
Beth Yarnelle Edwards creates portraits of middle-class suburbanites by self-consciously posing her subjects in the midst of their everyday activities. In one of her contributions to the group show at James Nicholson Gallery, Dislocation, the result was fairly banal. Parents watch with a combination of adoration and skepticism as their son plays guitar and their daughter demonstrates her cheerleading routines. But in others Edwards succeeded in capturing the psychological tensions that fill these sterile suburban settings, and the complex personal experiences of middle-class women in particular.
In Kati, Age 59, a woman stands fully dressed in pre-dawn light with a piece of paper in one hand and a briefcase in the other. She is a professional preparing to leave for the day, who has paused in the stillness of the early morning to reflect momentarily on her relationship with her still-sleeping husband. Is it sadness that she feels because her work takes her away from him, disappointment that provokes her to consider leaving him altogether, or something in between?
In another photograph, Lorraine, Age 73, a woman with dyed red hair sits alone on one of two twin beds with her eyes turned contemplatively towards the other. She seems to be a widow quietly mourning her departed husband; but her left hand is conspicuously missing a wedding ring, perhaps suggesting that she is rather a spinster, or a divorcé. In her loneliness she appears to be reflecting on the passage of her life, and specifically her romantic life—her sex.
In a third picture, Barbara, age 44, the everyday gives way to the surreal. A woman wearing a gas mask sits knitting on the couch in a room where all the windows and furniture have been covered in plastic. Only the feet and legs of a man lying on the floor stick out from the margin of the picture. Is this a crime scene? Is she living with her husband’s rotting corpse? Is it the scene of a disaster, and if so why is she so calm? Or is this a hysterical delusion in which the oppressive sterility of middle-class life has irrupted in a violent caricature of itself?
The show also included photographs by Angela Buenning, Maizie Gilbert, and Katherine Westerhout.