In “Fake Weather,” a new show opening today and running until December 2 at Robert Mann Gallery in New York City, Julie Blackmon continues her antic and darkly sweet exploration of family life, using carefully orchestrated images to comment on the chaos and humor of the domestic world. In her new work, Blackmon ranges beyond the houses and yards where her earlier series focused, presenting images set in small towns —a grey-haired woman waits outside a beauty shop, a girl pushes a baby stroller down a chalk-covered sidewalk beside a building advertising new and used guns.
A political edge runs through several of the images. “Trapped” shows a fluffy but unhappy looking cat sitting a dark garage, which is littered with skateboards and garden equipment. Against one wall lean signs that read “RESIST” and “Clinton Kaine,” alluding to a claustrophobic memory of last year’s election. Another image, “Fake Weather” can also be read as a political comment. In it, two girls are dressed in fur hats and muffs and stand against a backdrop of a winter scene, surrounded by green grass and blooming trees. Above them, disembodied hands throw fake snow over the top of the setup. As the gallery writes, the photo “comments on the nation’s temperature—as both its climate and politics heat up—and responds to a time in which obvious realities are described as false.”
While Blackmon’s images touch on big topics, their open-ended qualities prevent a single reading and leave their larger meaning for the viewer to discover. When she began making pictures, she says in a statement, “I was primarily interested in documenting the lives of my five sisters and myself as we raised families in the Ozarks in the 21st century. My goal was to capture the mythical in the ordinary, and I gradually began introducing narrative strands into the photos, hoping to create visual fables that reflected deeper truths.”