Justine Kurland

Justine Kurland


16 October – 9 November 2002

Curated by Hannah Scott

"I stage photographs of teenage girls, imagining they have run away from home, gathered together, forming packs in the woods where they live like wildlife. I imagine a world devoid of men, where girls are independent and free, where perfect moments follow one after another. At the same time I create this narrative, I allow it to unravel, so the pictures have only a trace of my directorial hand. Ultimately these photos are about how the girls interpret my request for paradise."

- Justine Kurland


New York photographer Justine Kurland's tableau-photographs offer a mythical world inhabited by sprite, adolescent girls. Half-pixies, half-runaways, her troop embodies a sensibility the artist believes is shared by young women: one of empowerment, independence, camaraderie and intimacy.

Kurland focuses on liminal "threshold" moments that mark a ritualised entry into the bonding and adventure of post-adolescence. Shipwrecked, stranded outside culture, the girls have gathered, building forts, hunting for food, torturing small animals, frolicking in fields, and writing graffiti on rocks. Kurland offers her all-girl-world as a form of Utopia. Landscape looms large, with Kurland often mimicking academy conventions of 19th century history or landscape painting. The subject of her images is sometimes split between the girls trading confidences and the environment that hosts their exchange.

The works also reference historical photography (Julia Margaret Cameron and Matthew Brady) and cinema (films like River's Edge; and whole genres like the teenage movie and road movie).

Last year, Kurland was in Auckland as artist-in-residence at Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts. We will be showing the fifteen-odd images she produced during her stay with local schoolgirls in parks, in the bush and on West Coast beaches.