Sage Sohier and David Hilliard's "Our Parents, Ourselves"
Photographers David Hilliard and Sage Sohier have each explored gender, class, and interpersonal dynamics in their portraits throughout their career. Among these portraits are photographs that document their parents, and sometimes themselves.
In a new exhibition at the Fitchburg Art Museum, Sohier/Hilliard: Our Parents, Ourselves, a selection of works from Sohier’s series Witness to Beauty and a selection of Hilliard’s photographs of his father (taken intermittently since the 1990s) will share the same gallery. Together these images explore the physical and emotional transformations of the subjects and each artist’s parental ties. Sohier’s Witness to Beauty documents her former-fashion model mother, Wendy Burden Morgan. The series examines changing, generational ideas of beauty as a defining aspect of a woman’s identity, aging, and the artist’s and her sister’s bonds with their mother. While Sohier’s “Mum” is the focus of the series, the environments in which she’s staged alongside her daughters and partners enhance her multidimensional portrait. Sohier presents her “Mum” as both “an icon of feminine beauty” and “a force of nature.” Hilliard, like Sohier, employs the environment, common objects, and dramatic perspective to create a portrait of his father that, while about aging, masculinity, and father-son relationships, is also about the individual character of his dad. The artist’s multi-panel photographs are cinematic, subtly bringing together slices of time to intensify a moment’s emotional tone, such as disconnection or loneliness. Hilliard prompts viewers to look closely at the changing relationship between the photographer and his father as subject.