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Touch Your Mirror

Taylor Morgan / Jessica Frances Martin

02.28.2020 - 05.15.2020

Extended to May 15! Watch our online artist’s talk on Instagram Live here.

“Touch Your Mirror” presents recent paintings, drawings, and prints by Jessica Frances Martin and Taylor Morgan, curated by Jesse Pace.

This exhibition features two painters whose practices reflect on the boundaries of reality and fantasy, female friendship, the anxieties of growing up, and the transition from girl to woman.

Morgan’s work is inspired by growing up in a theater company. Acting in commercials and theater as a child, her painting practice is an interplay between storytelling, costumes, drama, and history. Her painting process mirrors an approach to theater production; casting, location scouting, and composing scenes through performance. With a lens of dark humor, Morgan is interested in mid-century American media tropes, the effects of visual media created by adults for girls, and how it shapes developmental psyches and queer identities.

Martin’s work attempts to paint the other side of the mirror, the girl of unachievable weightlessness, the unreal, hair commercial, girl fantasy. Beautiful Inside and Out, intangible, with porous borders, unclear boundaries, partially invisible. Martin’s subjects look like the anonymous girl you see in magazines, and like an actress you almost recognize.

Both artists contemplate interior/ exterior explorations to discover what is inside of yourself, while navigating the real world from fantasies, fictions, and make-believe.


You’re radiant
Drenched in sunlight
Smooth like silk
You have the irresistible, clean, fresh-girl smell
The soft smelling
Pure Fragrance
Now You Can Buy It Anywhere
The fragrance smells just like you.
Apply it all over your face
Let it seep into your pores
Then apply it all over your body
The last step is to ingest.
It will leave you feeling soft
Deeper than skin deep
It will make you clean and clear
From the inside out

I attempt to paint the other side of the mirror, the girl of unachievable weightlessness, the unreal, hair commercial, girl fantasy. Beautiful Inside and Out, intangible, she has porous borders, unclear edges, and is partially invisible. The anonymous girl you see in magazines, who resembles an actress you almost recognize.

I question if my subjects are something other than human, and what they might be.

When I’m in the act of painting I consider where boundaries can blur. I consider this blurring, the play between fantasy/ reality, to be a space of potential where boundaries are flexible. I’ve noticed a strange overlap between what I started to think of as painting language, and make-up language. There’s a parallel between the illusions in painting and the illusions in make-up. Like through make-up you can conceal, brighten, glow, highlight, and so on. Sometimes make-up advertisements blur the line between inside/out beauty. My subjects are increasingly starting to fall off on the other side of FaceTune, to become supernatural, and impossible to ever exist.

I think about what it means to make paintings about adolescence when you are over 30 years old. I think about how painting has changed for me in the last 10 years, how it will continue to change for me as I age, and my subjects stay youthful.

My Brooke Shields project evolved after collecting images of the actress, and then images of girls who look like her. Brooke is an example of teen girl fandom, a subject girls wanted to be, and look like. An example of girls looking at girls. As I collected more source materials, the collection became the aggregate image of a white preteen girl, with long dark hair, who’s image gets interchanged with another girl, and then another. I think of visibility/ invisibility the more Brooke’s image multiplies in my collection, and the more generic her image becomes to me.

I’ve had a long interest in interiority – inner thoughts, feelings, of an individual. I like the possibility that going inward can be a space of world building. And that this world building could potentially bleed over into changing the outside world. Taylor and I both contemplate interior/ exterior explorations to discover what is inside of yourself. What it’s like to be so invested in fi ction as a young person, that it’s difficult to navigate the real world from fantasy and make-believe. In contrast to Taylor’s work, my practice is full of girly imagery, representations of a world of pleasure that basically ceases to exist after girls enter their teenage years. Although it is a protective space of imagination in childhood.

Within the last year I’ve been particularly interested in images of female pleasure (especially in media made for women and by women). How can a representation be subversive or do the work of critique? I ask this about my own work, and in the work of others’.

The characters in my work are dealing with the anxieties that come with the precipice of womanhood. They see themselves as other, too young, too rebellious, too tomboyish (or queer). They have no desire to be what they perceive as “woman”. Jessica’s collages depicts girls in late 1970’s Hollywood, whose fame relied on their early acceptance into the idea of womanhood. In Brooke Shields’s case, embodying a fantasy, a sexy prepubescent, neither woman nor girl.

When I first saw Jessica’s work, I was struck by the familiarity of the forms, where have I seen that face before, Hollywood? Romance Comics? In their translucency through paint, clarity fades just as you begin to place them in space and time.

Hollywood has been recycling teenage fantasy stories for a century, it’s no question that mythology is deeply ingrained in us. American media is hopefully entering an era where whiteness is no longer the presumed ideal. Still, the white girl standard is so deep-seated in the American collective subconscious, the influences it has over young people of all ethnicities is something curious to me.

When I was a teenager, I was fixated on crafting my life based on the movies I
watched obsessively. When a 7-11 opened in my neighborhood I was overjoyed. I loved the look of it. I thought, this is where teenagers hang out.

My paintings come from that place, fantasy and truth, relationships with real girls, and characters, indistinguishable. What is a genuine experience of knowing yourself as a teenager? When your emotions are always at a 10, and your identity is performance. What happens when you lose the friends who made you who you are?

Much of my adolescent self discovery was driven by an embracing of media from my parent’s generation, about American teenagers in the late 1970’s. My friends and I were growing up in Brooklyn in the digital age, but we were swept up by the appeal of a quintessential American teenage experience, crafted by adult white men, dating back 50 years before we were born. Author Pamela Thurschwell described this phenomenon in her essay “The Ghost World of Adolescence.”

“Adolescents often choose a deliberately anachronistic style to express their
rebellion against current historical conditions and choices (or lack of choices). A Mod revival might reveal a longing for an earlier historical moment when different kinds of adolescent resistance were imagined as possible, such as different forms of identifications involving class, gender or sexuality.

… The genuine need of the adolescent for a new relationship (even if only through a fantasized temporal disjunction) to an unsatisfactory present she had no part in building. There may be nothing quite as ghostly as the temporal dragster, stubbornly anchoring herself in an outmoded style and time.”

The act of painting (already perhaps an anachronistic image making method) can freeze otherwise transitory adolescence. The space we’ve created in the gallery also mirrors the adolescent urge to create a space that is all your own.

I’m hoping this show can provide a closure of sorts. The characters in the paintings act as stand ins for adolescence me, and old friends, and make believe friends. I also hope that our show inspires people to talk to each other about their own memories. Who was your best friend, when was the fi rst time you wore makeup, broke the law, notice having sex appeal before you had a sex drive? Who taught you how to be a woman?

Thank you for joining us!

Taylor Morgan is a Chicago based artist, originally from Brooklyn NY. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute is Chicago in 2019. Taylor’s work is driven by narrative, working with themes from young adulthood, like friendship, anxiety and make-believe. She is interested in the influence of visual media on a developmental psyche, the portrayal of women in films, illustrations. Stylistically her paintings reflect mid 20th century American popular culture, as well as late 19th century genre paintings. Taylor currently teaches art in Lincoln Square. In 2018 she attended the Yale Summer School of Music and Art in Norfolk CT. She will be attending the Vermont Studio Center Residency this spring. In 2019 she was featured in the SAIC BFA show, Teacher/student show at One River, and GIFC at Western Exhibitions.

Jessica Frances Martin’s painting practice is figurative, focused on women and the environments they exist in. How as they merge with their environment they have more power over their image and the world they inhabit. With a particular focus on narratives of fantasy, interiority, girl culture, and processes of transformation. Martin received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011, and her MFA from Northwestern University in 2019.

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