Second Eve

Eve and the Virgin Mary are the two primary female figures visualized in the history of Christian art. Eve’s signifying element is her shameful nudity, while the Virgin Mary is represented as a paragon of virtue – clothed, almost bodiless. Art historian Margaret Miles writes, “[Eve’s] naked body . . . signals her sinfulness just as the Virgin’s lack of body reveals her goodness.” St. Irenaeus in the second century was the first to name the Virgin Mary as the ‘Second Eve,’ claiming that Mary’s act of giving birth to Jesus reversed Eve’s fall and would lead to the salvation of humankind. These depictions, all made by men, were the lens through which women were expected to understand themselves.

With a large-format camera, I photograph women modeling as both Eve and the Virgin Mary in reference to particular images in art history, primarily from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Each participant chooses the image she wants to reference and we collaborate to make the portraits. In the same way the original artists extrapolated these narratives and placed them within a contemporary setting, I also photograph each woman in her own home. However, unlike the historical references, in my photographs each woman has agency to interpret the original pose as her own.

By placing real women into these mythical roles, I explore the ways in which the categories of shame and virtue continue to be inscribed onto women’s bodies in the contemporary West.

Installation, Red Eye Gallery, Providence, RI, 2018

Using Format