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Eva O’Leary

Hyères Festival
Selected in
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Following a degree in photography at CalArts, in California and then Yale, Eva O’Leary (1989) has had three solo exhibitions in 2017: Happy Valley, Meyohas, New York; Concealer, Vontobel, Zurich and Spitting Image, Crush Curatorial, New York.

The perfect skin and the smooth image which accompanies it, Eva O’Leary knows all too well the different ingredients and recipes of commercial photography. She too, as a teen, ate this cake which now, as an artist, she presents to us on a plateau. In a refrigerator rests a sponge cake, accompanied with printed icing: a saccharine young woman with perfect blow-dried hair watches us. Since it is said that revenge is a dish best served cold, this is the fate which the photographer reserves for the young blonde haired woman with the Colgate smile and her diktat. She grew up in the United States of America in a campus town whose name is almost an order – Happy Valley – and remembers her years spent masking her Irish head in the hood of a must have Abercrombie sweatshirt. The series, Happy Valley, is rooted in her town and her adolescent memories, describing an environment which is intrusive and worrying, modelling individuals whose self identity has been traded for a generic body. With the more recent Spitting Image, it is the years before, the adolescent vulnerability which are exposed. Young girls, around fifteen years old, present themselves to us, tightly framed on a vibrant blue backdrop which permits neither an escape for the gaze, nor breathing room for the model. Eva O’Leary accompanies these photographs with videos: perched upon a stool, we watch them searching for the person they hoped to find in the mirror. In this interval the photographer reopens the field of representations and with it, the freedom to be complex, different, uncertain, unique, human.