Critics’ Picks

Jemimah Patterson, Ajar, 2011, oil on mirror and wooden door inside vintage box, 8 x 13 x 5".

Jemimah Patterson, Ajar, 2011, oil on mirror and wooden door inside vintage box, 8 x 13 x 5".

New York

Jemimah Patterson

Boltax Gallery
21 North Ferry Road
August 6–September 12, 2011

British artist Jemimah Patterson’s first solo exhibition in the United States, “Two-in,” features many boxes—some sumptuous, the sort reserved for jewelry or silver, others less so, like vintage tin lunch boxes. Each is propped open and lined with mirrors, which refract the viewer’s reflection at odd angles, providing glimpses of one’s face and neck that are usually impossible to see: the bottom of the chin, the nape of the neck, the top of the eyelids.

Patterson was born a conjoined twin—attached to her sister by her ear and surgically separated at birth—and grew up gazing at a girl that looked precisely like herself. The mirrors create this experience for the viewer, the jarring reflections acting as an objective correlative for what it must be like to grow up alongside an identical self. Peering inside her work, one notices a slight, blonde girl (that looks very much like the artist) painted over the mirrors. She is pictured slumped against a wall, curled in a corner with her head between her knees, or gazing into the mirror, her back facing the viewer. Sometimes Patterson only paints her hands, which clutch the iron chains of a child’s swing set, or her legs and bare feet, which dangle from a swing. Superimposed over the viewer’s reflection, these motifs, all intensely nostalgic, evoke childhood, perhaps more specifically girlhood, effectively thrusting one into his or her own past while keeping the immediate present—as viewed through the mirrors—quite literally front and center.