Safe & Sexy / Personas and Codes of Public Space
The exhibition Safe & Sexy / Personas and Codes of Public Space, documents women in the public space and how they modify their appearance, persona and identity in order to establish a sense of comfort and/or sensuality. Sarah Hughes, artist and photographer from San Francisco, USA, has examined how the influences of society, government structures, economics, age, race and geographical location effect how women present themselves in public spaces. She began the project in San Francisco in 1999 and spent the spring of 2001 continuing the series in Sweden (Stockholm and Skellefteå) where she interviewed and photographed women between the ages of 15-85 from diverse backgrounds.
She has asked the women a list of standard questions for the interview, such as, “Do you think about what you’re wearing when you walk out the door? How do you modify your appearance for different occasions and locations? When does sexy become trashy?” The increasing threat of physical violence and attacks against women has increased not only in USA but also in Sweden (even if the rate of crime is much lower). The artist is also curious to know how this affects the choice of clothes and body language.
For the photographs, she asked the women to choose two outfits, one in which they feel comfortable and safe and one in which they feel attractive and sexy. The photographs are taken in each woman’s neighbourhood or in another area that they frequent. The juxtaposition of the two photographs illustrates the chameleon-like roles and personas women subconsciously and consciously play out on a daily basis. The images are placed next to one another humorously reminiscent of an anthropological survey or a “before and after” advertisement for make-over, weight loss or plastic surgery.
Sarah Hughes (b. 1969) has studied Photojournalism and International Relations in Boston and art at California Collage of Arts and Crafts. During the spring of 2002, she will hold a scholarship from IASPIS (International Artists Studio Program in Sweden) placed in Umeå.
Most of the pictures and interviews are presented in a small catalogue that is available for all visitors of the exhibition. Extracts from the interviews will also be a background sound in the exhibition. During the exhibition period at Bildmuseet there will be a program of lectures in collaboration with the Centre for Women’s Studies at Umeå University.
The exhibition is produced by Bildmuseet in collaboration with the following institutions where it also will be shown:
Kulturhuset, Stockholm (9 Feb. – 14 April 2002),
Ronneby Kulturcentrum (28 April – 2 June 2002),
Skellefteå kulturförvaltning (9 June – 24 July 2002),
Arbetets Museum, Norrköping (Sept. – Nov. 2002)