isabel magowan's eerie portraits of privileged adolescence
The ex-ballerina explores youth as a dress rehearsal for something uncertain.
From Edie Segwick to @RichKidsOfInstagram and the Kardashian-Jenner clan, upper-crust unease has long had a chokehold on America's collective consciousness. Isabel Magowan isn't attracted to the sinister side of privileged life because it's wholly unfamiliar. The Manhattan-raised photographer spent her formative years as a child performer before turning her camera on the beautiful people she was raised amongst. In fact some of the Yale MFA grad's most compelling images feature people she knows in real life.
Magowan's first solo show, Dress Rehearsal, explores the performance and ritual of fanciful adolescence — and questions what happens when it's time for real life to start. What comes after the pageant makeup and pointe shoes when you realize you've been rehearsing for something you don't want? It was similar considerations — and a string of hip surgeries — that turned a then-teenage Magowan to photography. "When I quit, I definitely felt at odds because I'm not an academic, I didn't make art," she told i-D back in 2015. "I just felt like this really weird, eccentric person without some sort of talent or avenue to express myself."
For those of us who grew up rocking hand-me-down OshKosh and mismatched socks, the worlds Magowan photographs are both enchanting and ominous. The girls that live inside them simultaneously sparkle and suffocate in cavernous mahogany dining rooms and embellished Prada runway looks. One photo shows three casually clad girls lying sprawled on a shag carpet with cucumber slices in their eyes, a first rehearsal for something more serious.
"Dress Rehearsal" is on view at Eerdmans Fine Art in NYC from June 7-26, 2017. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, June 8.
Text Hannah Ongley
Photography Isabel Magowan