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Growing Up and Growing Old

Rania Matar (b.1964) was raised in Lebanon and moved to the United States in 1984, breaking away from difficulties caused by the Lebanese Civil War. A practicing architect until 2000, she began taking photography courses and gradually transitioned her career from architecture to fine art photography.

From December 23, 2017-June 17, 2018, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, presents In Her Image: Photographs by Rania Matar. The exhibition is composed of 50 larg-scale color prints that bring together four bodies work, each of which “trace the development of female identity through portraiture,” states the press release. The images, made in the United States and the Middle East of adolescent girls and women, show that the forces shaping identity “transcend cultural and geographic boundaries.”

One series called Unspoken Conversations positions mothers and daughters in the same frame. A departure from Matar’s other bodies of work that typically place one female in the frame, this series provides insight into the complexity of emotions, from tenderness to dismissal, of the mother-daughter relationship. “In spite of the differences of the individuals pictured, the photographs place into sharp focus the universal pressures of aging that mark both sides of a woman’s life as she enters and exits her years of reproductive fertility,” points out the wall text of the exhibition.

Another body of work titled A Girl and Her Room illustrates teenage girls in their bedrooms inside middle-class homes in the United States and refugee camps in the Middle East. Surrounded by objects that have informed their identities as girls becoming women, the viewer is reminded that the young women are not yet adults. Bras coexist with stuffed animals and makeup cases are strewn alongside photos of the teens as children.

The other two series on view are Becoming, which juxtaposes two portraits of the same girl at different stages of adolescence, and L’Enfant Femme, which pictures girls posing with a new awareness of their developing sexuality.

The four series come together to create a collective portrait of how female identity is constructed over time and across cultures. And poignantly capture, as the press release explains, “both the pleasures and uncomfortable realities of growing up and growing old.”

-Sarah Stacke

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