I read an article in the New York Times blog, Lens, about a series of photographs taken by photographer, Clara de Tezanos, who photographed seemingly assured, independent women in “comfortable” places. Women at their most casual, all the while effortlessly sensual and engaging in their gaze towards, and at times withdrawing their gaze from the camera. Women at their finest, in their best, stripped down and done up and everything in between.
Women in comfortable places. I clung to that throughout reading the article. Women in comfortable places. Whatever that means. Comfortable places. I’m not familiar with comfortable places. She photographed them in bed and in bathrooms and their feet up on dashboards and their hands pressed together in prayer between drab walls. What is comfortable about staring at your face in a bathroom mirror? Beds are lovely and beds are nice and beds offer comfort, I can give her that. However, are beds not the thrones in which we toss and turn in, spending hours upon hours thinking, crying, wishing, dreaming and wanting? The nightmares. The vivid brutal ones. The people who have visited our beds and the memories sewn and stained into the mattress. The nights your head never finds its way to the pillow, the dozens of evenings in a row spent changing the sheets all in an effort to feel renewed, to recharge, to regain something lost, and renew the spirit– all of it feeling in vain. Everything remains.
Within these symbolic rooms, these (hopefully) strategic backdrops I see the flash and the flicker of escape. Hiding out, locking doors and sinking into a world filled to the brim with bath bubbles where no one can find you. Arms outstretched, covered in dough and flour; rooms filled with steam where women disappear. Rooms where women invent their own solace. An image of a bathtub full of bubbles doesn’t make me think of comfort. What comfort is there in a bathtub where you scrub and scald yourself to remove the dirty to make yourself clean? I used to think I was the only woman who thought the steam and the running water would mask her tears and muffle her sobs. Not so. It’s all our little trick. In that regard, hats off to De Tezanos. For a moment I see that yes– we are all Maria. But then I’m lost again. Distracted again, turning up with a million questions shouting out while typing furiously away at my Google search bar for anything on this vague Maria, and De Tezanos, for some kind of narration I can sit with.
Was that the intent of the images? A woman, content and at ease, in her element, exposed in the places she ought to feel her safest with the residue of discontent and sadness lingering over her like an aura or a halo of dissatisfaction? I can’t wrap my head around it. My head has been cocked to its side for days now trying to figure this one out. How do you solve a problem like Maria? Art is supposed to be provocative and it is supposed to stir something up inside of you. Well, I’m certainly stirred. Whether or not De Tezanos succeeded– well that’s another story for another Maria.