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Entangled: Reviewed by Madeline Cass


Book Review Entangled Photographs by Maude Arsenault Reviewed by Madeline Cass "An intimate, autobiographical body of work, Entangled is quiet and alluring visual poetry that examines and asks questions about age, family, but particularly what it means to be a femme-identifying human and the roles of gender in our society...."
Entangled. By Maude Arsenault.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ220
Entangled  
Photographs by Maude Arsenault

Deadbeat Club, Los Angeles, CA, 2020. 64 pp., color & black-and-white illustrations, 9½x12¼".

An intimate, autobiographical body of work, Entangled is quiet and alluring visual poetry that examines and asks questions about age, family, but particularly what it means to be a femme-identifying human and the roles of gender in our society. This project encapsulates a pivotal moment for Canadian photographer Maude Arsenault’s work, representing a shift in perspective and personal responsibility. "After years dedicated to creating glorified images of women," she says of her success in fashion photography, "I came to question my role and influence in the transmission of models of femininity."

Her perspective, as an adult and a parent, has shifted the way she views cultural demands made on the bodies and roles of women — especially younger women. Arsenault is the mother of three children, including a fourteen-year-old girl. The book opens with a handwritten Virginia Woolf quote — “Growing up is losing some illusions in order to acquire others.”

EntangledBy Maude Arsenault.

Arsenault utilizes the repetition of a number of motifs in order to reflect a personal universe and language. Water and bodies frequently intermingle. A woman floats in the ocean, staring into the sky, seamlessly comfortable between two voids; the space holds her like a womb. Waterfalls appear twice; tumultuous, beautiful and fleeting. One is paired with a backbone, similarly fluid and strong. Another is juxtaposed with the mostly bare back of a young woman, she is turned away from us, pulling on her top, something intimate — we are not sure if this is an act of modesty or revealing.

EntangledBy Maude Arsenault.
Curtains, bedsheets, blinds, clothing, a pair of cheap cotton white panties laying bleakly, they serve a similar role — veiling something intimate or empty. The cast shadows of a tree, shading; still more capitulation between masking and revealing. Bodies are often out of focus forms — perhaps it is our perception of ourselves, often too close to see clearly. The home becomes a metaphor for the body, such as in Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, wherein the attic is a metaphor for clarity of mind. The basement, on the contrary, is the darker, subterranean and irrational entity.

A lynchpin image of this work is of a young woman reading a book, one thigh resting on the back seat of a car, seemingly unaware of the surrounding world, or of the viewer. The figure in Entangled is reading a book in French, La dernière des Stanfield, by Marc Levy. One summary describes this novel as “A mystery, a love story, and a search through a shadowy past.”

In a similar fashion, Entangled elicits a sense of mystery, love and personal history. The viewer is left with a feeling of melancholy and tension in the embodiment and disembodiment of what it means to identify and be viewed as female.

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EntangledBy Maude Arsenault.
EntangledBy Maude Arsenault.

Madeline Cass is a native of Nebraska, and is currently based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She earned a BFA in studio art with an emphasis in photography from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2017. She primarily works within photography, poetry, and artist books. She is the author of how lonely, to be a marsh, published in 2019. Her work examines the multitude of relationships between art, science, nature, and humanity.

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