August 1, 2013 - September 1, 2013
For three years, artist Sage Sohier interviewed and photographed patients undergoing physical therapy for partial facial paralysis at a nerve clinic in Boston. Many of these patients were seeking treatment related to a variety of conditions, including Bell’s palsy, tumors, strokes, accidents, and congenital nerve damage. As Sohier recalls from their conversations, many of her subjects have spent a lifetime suppressing their outward emotions, for fear that gestures as natural as an unguarded smile or an outburst of laughter might only serve to magnify their imperfections. Yet for Sohier, there is an unmistakable element of the sublime present in these portraits, and perhaps by viewing these images we, too, may confront our own expectations of beauty.
“As a visual artist, I find myself fascinated by the intensity of glimpsing two expressions simultaneously, a literal ‘two-facedness’ that mesmerizes by its terrible beauty. At the same time, I hope these pictures bear witness to the incredible courage required to deal with medical afflictions, especially when they affect one’s primary appearance. Even minor facial problems challenge and potentially diminish a person’s sense of self; the poise and inner strength that it takes to deal with this, while at the same time presenting oneself to the world, is remarkable. As I’ve listened to and photographed these people, I’ve been struck by how much complex feeling is revealed in their faces and gestures. Their brave self-presentation to the camera, at a time when they are most vulnerable and camera-shy, elicits something wistful, tender, and deeply human.”
Sage Sohier holds a BA from Harvard University and has taught photography at her alma mater, as well as at Wellesley College and the Massachusetts College of Art. She has exhibited solo shows at Foley Gallery in New York, Bernard Toale Gallery in Boston, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and in 2007 she presented her series Perfectible Worlds at Blue Sky. Her work is housed in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum. In addition to publishing two monographic books of her work–About Face (Columbia College Chicago Press, 2012) and Perfectible Worlds (Photolucida, 2007)–Sohier’s editorial photographs have appeared in New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, TIME, NewsweekWired, Audubon, Discover, Entertainment Weekly, and Oprah Magazine.