Salisbury Press

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Panas’ awakens ‘Beauty’

Friday, March 15, 2019 by Ed Courrier Special to The Press in Focus

“Sleeping Beauty,” a solo exhibition by fine art photographer Lydia Panas through April 13, Martin Art Gallery, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, focuses on the social contradictions women face.

Each of the 16 color portraits of women, from girls through adults, features a figure laying in a grassy or leafy setting outdoors. With their eyes wide open, the subjects seem to be defiantly staring back at the viewer. A direct gaze from each conveys a sense of interruption and engagement.

“’Sleeping Beauty’ is actually a reversal of the fairy tale,” says Panas.

The women is the series are not sleeping and awaiting a prince to awake them.

“They are looking directly at the camera and at the viewer very knowingly,” Panas says. “There is a certain knowledge, awareness and alertness that’s on the inside that they are projecting.

“The sleeping part is this dormant part,” Panas explains. “They are waiting to actually speak. I was taught as a girl to look nice and be silent. My practice tells me I need to speak up.

“For this particular series, I used medium-format film. I don’t do digital. Digital is so quick. I prefer the larger cameras that kind of slow me down and make the whole process more contemplative.”

Each work is titled with the first names of each model, each of whom is socially or professionally connected with the photographer.

“I’m not interested in taking a picture or taking a portrait. I’m interested in making a connection,” says Panas.

Complementing the photographs are videos of the females laying down or sitting up while holding their poses. Only their eyes occasionally blink in the one-minute-long looped vignettes.

Panas, a recipient of a Whitney Museum Independent Study Fellowship and a CFEVA Fellowship, received degrees from Boston College, the School of Visual Arts, and New York University-International Center of Photography.

Panas discusses her work at 5 p.m. March 27, Recital Hall, Baker Center for the Arts.

Martin Art Gallery hours: noon - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday.; 484-664-3467