Glistening eyes gaze out of nine intense, feminine faces. In the women’s hands are daggers, herbs, and feathers. These are spiritual women, from photographer Katarzyna Majak’s native Poland. They hail from earth-worshipping backgrounds—druids, celts, and pagans. They are also the focus of Majak’s latest exhibition “Women of Power,” on view at Porter Contemporary until July 14th. Majak shot these images under extremely bright lights and the lack of shadows intensifies the color in the clothing and skin of her subjects. Each female portrait is 31.5 inches by 21.7 inches, nearly life-size, which creates a mirror effect when the viewer approaches.
Here, director and curator of “Women of Power,” Jessica Porter, offers her thoughts on the process of selecting the photographs.
—Haniya Rae for Guernica
Guernica: As the curator, what was most compelling part of Majak’s work?
Jessica Porter: Initially, I was fascinated with how she met these women and her compulsion to photograph them. The energy from her experience was already resonating even before I saw a single photograph.
Guernica: Did you have any special ideas about how you arranged the photos or video within the gallery?
Jessica Porter: From a curatorial standpoint, each portrait in this series dictates its own space to reflect its power and its beauty as well as the unique nature of the series. I limited the selection to 10 portraits but when it came time to hang the show, I ended up hanging 9! Each portrait was so compelling in its own right it felt better to give each one additional space rather than try and crowd more works from the series into one show.
Guernica: Since these photographs are so much about the women’s strong sense of self, and about a burgeoning search for alternative spirituality, what do you hope your visitors gain from their experience?
Jessica Porter: Since this series has such broad artistic and political implications I chose a wide range of ages in the women photographed to add a sense of balance as well as to increase visitor connectivity. I think that anyone seeing the exhibition, despite their particular beliefs or preconceptions, will be faced with the fact of how much individuality and power each person holds whether it is expressed symbolically, as in the series with each woman holding her object of power, or more literally.
Haniya Rae is Guernica‘s assistant art editor. She graduated summa cum laude from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she studied Painting and Art History. Her work has been published in Art in America:Drawing and she was awarded a France-Merrick Fellowship for her work in community arts.