Sally Waterman

'The Other Side of a Mirror' (1999)

Black & white photographs (7x7.5cm) encased in acrylic cubes (11x11x2.5cm) with text panels (35 in series)


'The Other Side Of A Mirror' draws upon a carefully edited selection of literary quotations, including Charlotte Bronte’s 'Jane Eyre' (1847), Kate Chopin’s 'The Awakening' (1899), Virginia Woolf’s 'Orlando' (1928) and Sylvia Plath’s poem, 'Mirror' (1961) to address issues surrounding the Western identification of woman with the reflected image and the construction of gender identity. The concept of a split self: the visible façade and the secret self or ‘mad double’ within, is acutely captured by the speaker in Mary Taylor Coleridge’s poem (1882), who resurrects a “vision of a woman, wild /with more than womanly despair” (l.5-6), but reveals that “She had no voice to speak her dread” (l.18). The narrative itself is recalled through a sequence of nightmarish images that depict two nude female figures in a derelict room, hidden behind closed doors, like the secret chamber in Charles Perrault’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

By employing surrogate selves, gender distinctions become blurred through the literal ‘masking’ of appearance and behaviour. Indeed, the artist assumes a masquerade of literary associations to convey the emotional impact of family bereavement, parental divorce and the unveiling of closely guarded secrets, through the creation of different personas to cope with these traumatic experiences. The sense of voyeurism and intimacy is intensified by the miniature size of the photographs, which are displayed as objects, balanced on shelves placed at different heights on the gallery wall. Therefore, the viewer has to make a considered effort to peer up or bend down in order to view the images, so that the play with scale confuses the audience’s perception, just as Alice experienced in her adventures through the looking glass.

Exhibition History
The Other Side of a Mirror, Kingsgate Gallery, London (solo)
Hidden Within, Five Princelet Street Gallery, London (solo)
The Uncanny, Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk, Lancashire (Group)