Glamor and Excess, Under the Lens

Shiny, tan skin, gem-encrusted necklines, bleach-white teeth, and studded stilettos are the surfaces that Jessica Craig-Martin is drawn to, and delves into in her photographic commentaries on superficiality. A press photographer for the likes of Vogue and Vanity Fair, her frequent outings at socialite-heavy events inspired her own personal photographic style, a spin on classic society pages characterized by voyeuristic vantage points, close-ups, and saturated colors, thus lending viewers an interior view in an exclusive world. Craig-Martin brings these unabashed portraits, reflections of her own sensibilities as a New Yorker, to Winston Wächter Fine Art’s Seattle outpost this week, in “Answered Prayers.”

Forays into high society events are also the subject of some of her “Social Studies,” visual diaries for W Magazine; Craig-Martin says of these works, “My camera wants to eradicate the personal. I see my works as abstract studies of sequins, evicted mollusks, and air-conditioned mink. Vanity, excess, vulnerability, arcane social ritual. Failed armor. Glamour is a mirage. As you approach, it evaporates.” Often crossing the boundaries of personal space, Craig-Martin is on the lookout for imperfections and irony, mercilessly capturing hidden wrinkles, fashion faux pas, and even subjects caught in off-guard moments while shoveling down some caviar. In photographs from an AmfAR benefit in Cannes, she homed in on ostentatious baubles and smudgy lipstick, questioning the sincerity of the charity event’s guests, while at another event, in a standoff between precariously high heels, we’re given a floor-level view of discomfort. Sharply critical and visually vibrant, her narratives effectively intrigue their viewers, and leave them wanting more.

Back on the East Coast in April, Winston Wächter Fine Art offers an exhibition focusing on the impeccable, photorealistic graphite drawings of Ethan Murrow. Using his skill to provoke surprise, Murrow is known for fantastic scenes depicting improbable, optically confounding imagery. His new works on view in “State Flag” are no different, now focusing on images that define American statehood, taking the tiny illustrations found on state quarters as a point of departure. Employing stereotypes and a hint of cynicism, Murrow’s drawings merge folklore and history, presenting playful panoramas of nationhood. A highlight of the exhibition will be a site-specific visual chronology of the United States, which Murrow will draw on the gallery wall in ballpoint pen, at once paying tribute to the U.S., and pointing out its storied flaws.

Answered Prayers” is on view at Winston Wächter Fine Art, Seattle, Mar. 4th–Apr. 17th, 2014.

“State Flag” is on view at Winston Wächter Fine Art, New York, Apr. 10th–May 31st, 2014.

Explore more artists from Winston Wächter Fine Art.