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There is mischief afoot in Nadine Boughton’s photographic collages! In her dynamic juxtapositions of images from men’s and women’s popular magazines from the 1950s and 1960s, Boughton highlights the collision of cultural ideals. Her colorful hijinks can be enjoyed in a solo show “American Home” at the Trident Gallery in Gloucester, MA through August 9, 2015.
In her series True Adventures in Better Homes, Boughton combines the heroic, action-packed pictures in men’s adventure magazines with the genteel and serene domestic images from Better Homes and Gardens. The clashes are pitch-perfect, at once funny and revealing.
Boughton’s images reflect a post-war culture in which McCarthyism was tolerated and sexual repression was ingrained. Men’s and women’s worlds were viewed as separate and complementary, a sort of yin and yang, where everyone had a prescribed role to play. Accentuating the tension of these opposites, Boughton pairs struggling heroic men and buxom women (for me, recalling Elvis Costello’s song Shabby Doll, in which “there’s a girl in distress, there’s always a girl in distress”) set against the backdrop of a calm and tastefully decorated home. These themes of wild versus domesticated, dangerous versus safe, active versus passive, even rough versus soft, are incorporated into each of Boughton’s flowing compositions with colorful vitality and gentle satire.
Boughton’s most recent series, Fortune and the Feminine, is a more pointed but no less humorous exploration of gender polarities. Pairing various women’s magazine images of the “dreamy interiority” of the home with Fortune magazine’s depiction of the “men’s world of wealth, industry and big ideas”, Boughton’s imagery contrasts sensuality and power, with a surprising twist. In her darkly funny narratives, we often end up asking who is wielding the power. A teasing homage to the men and women who raised her Baby Boom generation, Boughton’s series sheds light on their unique bonds to power, beauty and longing and, in the process, highlights the contrasts with our own.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Boughton’s work is her deft and light-hearted delivery. While exploring hefty mid-century American cultural themes, she nimbly weaves the icons of our most deep-seated psychological desires and fears into vibrant compositions. Abundant, luscious foods and alluring shelters are intertwined with the symbols of our military-industrial complex, such as boardrooms, machinery and outer space. And always, there is the female form in its splendid variety – from pulp to angelic – representing our most primal desires.
In a separate, darkened room of the gallery you can view Boughton’s very different and purely photographic series, My Parents’ Patio. Utilizing her parents’ Floridian patio like a stage set, Boughton directed their positioning and clothing in shots spanning almost two decades. She was again drawn to contrasts, such as light and shadow and the mix of natural and artificial surroundings. But this is a much more personal, poignant and sentimental journey, with Boughton noting, “as the patio flora grew, my parents seemed to shrink, engulfed by deepening shadows.” This campy series traces not only the humanity of aging but the seemingly ubiquitous yearning for the American Dream. Boughton’s keen observations weave those dreams of an entire generation into a flamboyantly welcoming “American Home”.
Nadine Boughton will give an artist’s presentation at Trident Gallery on Sunday, July 19, 2015 from 5:00 – 6:00pm. For more information, directions and gallery hours, go to: http://tridentgallery.com/
Feature Image: “Buried Treasure, 2011” from the series True Adventures in Better Homes by Nadine Boughton (courtesy of the artist and Trident Gallery, Gloucester, MA)