Eva O’Leary

from 25 April to 26 May 2019

The perfect skin and the smooth image which accompanies it, Eva O’Leary knows all too well the different ingredients and recipes of commercial photography. She too, as a teen, ate this cake which now, as an artist, she presents to us on a plateau. In a refrigerator rests a sponge cake, accompanied with printed icing: a saccharine young woman with perfect blow- dried hair watches us. This is the fate which the photographer reserves for the young blonde haired woman with the Colgate smile and her diktat. She grew up in the United States of America in a campus town whose name is almost an order – Happy Valley – and remembers her years spent masking her Irish head in the hood of a must have Abercrombie sweatshirt. The series, Happy Valley, is rooted in her town and her adolescent memories, describing an environment which is intrusive and worrying, modelling individuals whose self identity has been traded for a generic body. Their adopted communities, whether they be fraternities, sororities, or football teams, unveil a wide range of initiation rituals and memberships which compel conformity from those wish to belong and whose bodies are covered in white paint here, there in tattoos.
Under bright sunlight, the adolescent bodies are on display and reflect one another thanks to oils, specks of glitter, brillantine, and other lustres. From amongst these figures rise, here and there, like caryatids, young girls on the cusp of adolescence. They stand boldly, displaying in the most simple of fashion, faces without any lipstick nor eyeshadow, an innocence which here serves as a form of resistance.


Following a degree in photography at CalArts, in California and then Yale, Eva O’Leary (1989) has had three solo exhibitions in 2017: Happy Valley, Meyohas, New York ; Concealer, Vontobel, Zurich and Spitting Image, Crush Curatorial, New York. In 2018, she won the Grand Prix Photographie du Festival d’Hyères, followed by the ING Exhibition Fund prize at Unseen in Amsterdam, this was followed by an exhibition at FOAM3h.

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