Relationships under the lens

Relationships: Everyone has had them and been affected by them. They provide the material for countless songs, movies and even art. One such example of the profound influence relationships have on one’s life is now on display at the USF Centre Gallery in the exhibit, The End, by USF student and artist Heather Pridemore.

The exhibit – a retrospect of the work Pridemore has produced while attending USF for the past two and a half years – is titled The End because it is her last semester at USF. She graduates in May with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in art, with a specialization in photography.

The digital photographs and videos in the exhibit all have one central theme – relationships. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, the exhibit’s release is timed well.

Pridemore’s work explores the complexity of relationships, but does not only explore relationships between two lovers. Relationships exist in many forms. For example, “Life and Death,” a series of six digital photographs,focuses on the relationship between a woman and her infant. The first half of the series is photographs of a woman’s lactating breasts, whereas the last three photographs are close-up images of a woman’s vagina covered in blood.

This graphic nudity is used to symbolize the many events that can occur in a woman’s life – menstruation (meaning she is not pregnant), miscarriage, abortion or the birth of a child. It could even be the death of possibility for whatever she is hoping for.

Reactions to these images are strong. Sophomore Thomas Kerney finds the images in the “Life and Death” series to be “shocking” and “gross.” Further, he believes the intent of the work is unclear.In contrast, freshman John Kluwin picked up on Pridemore’s intended theme.

“The pictures clearly portray a mother’s intimate relationship with her child,” Kluwin said. Although he didn’t find the photographs particularly “tasteful,” he also recognized “a man and woman are going to react differently to them. A man is unfamiliar with such things, whereas a woman can identify and empathize with these life events.”

Another photograph featured in The End, although untitled, is an image of a man leaning over his bedpost to put his cigarette out. However, upon closer inspection, the image of a woman lying in bed next to him can be seen. The photograph is taken in the moments that occur after the most intimate act of a relationship – sex.

The influence of Nan Goldin, one of Pridemore’s favorite artists, can be seen in the untitled piece. In fact, the subject matter is identical to Goldin’s “Nan and Brian in Bed” (1983).

Much research goes into Pridemore’s art. She reads numerous books and articles about sociology, psychology and anthropology. This intellectual pondering about the behavior of humans is reflected in much of her work, some of which can be perceived more as social experiment than artistic endeavor.

Pridemore’s project is one such example. For this piece, she conducted research on to determine the dominant types of personalities that prevail on the Web site. She then created four personalities based on her findings – the slutty girl, the wannabe model, the girl next door and the working girl.

Pridemore then created profiles to reflect the interests common to these types of personalities and recorded the results, such as the number of “friends” each personality developed over the three-month period of the project.

The results, besides confirming common stereotypes, exemplify the effects of globalization on relationships – another interest of Pridemore’s.

Parallels can be drawn between the pieces of Pridemore’s art that involve sociological investigations and the work of Cindy Sherman, another artist who adopts different personas and costumes in order to create art.

Pridemore’s need to understand human relationships is the basis for her work – work that is not only personal, but is also universal because it relates to everyone. “My work is about my life, and my life is about my work,” Pridemore said.

A reception for The End is being held at Centre Gallery Friday, Feb. 9 from 7-9 p.m.