San Francisco

Donna-Lee Phillips

de Young Museum

In one of her photo-text sequences, Donna-Lee Phillips’ fictional character asks, “Who remembers?” The answer, in the form of another question, comes later, in another piece: “If it weren’t for photographs, who would know?” Phillips explores the relationship between remembering, knowing and substantiation through photographs—memory as a problem solved by a device.

The woman Phillips directs in her five sequences often acts out her life in front of a mirror, sitting at a vanity. At the other times, the camera functions as a mirror. In one, a man in the background waits for the woman to get made up to go out: in her mind’s background is an inner monologue of memories and questions. The props are make-up, combs, mirror and reflection. Her style is an interrogation of beauty, love, aging, disquiet and social control. She thinks of what she used to look like (plain, the way her husband married

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