Maria Pomiansky


October 17-November 16, 2001

All the photographed subjects are Maria Pomiansky's friends, all of them are Russian immigrants, all of them are portrayed wearing a button on their nose as if it were a pig's snout. Pomiansky explores states of transition and otherness, juxtaposing, via the image of the pig, her childhood memories from Moscow with the foreignness and intricacy of that same image in the Israeli reality. The characterization of her friends as pigs is at once ironic and loving. To some extent, they lose their identity and are transformed into greenish aliens of sorts. The mode of photography makes their eye pupils look like a radiant phosphorous stain, thus estranging and alienating them.

Alongside the photographs, Pomiansky features a large oil painting in the tradition of Social Realism. It depicts a Russian farmer holding two piglets. Painting the healthy-looking farmer in the tradition of sculptural-figurative painting idealizes reality. The series of nose photographs continue the critique waged at Social Realist paintings, that purport to reflect reality while embracing a certain degree of blindness and establishing a "false consciousness."

The practice of reflection assumes continuity, namely a continuum between the reality documented in the painting, and the actual language, culture and even way of life in the reality of those viewing the painting. The biographies of Pomiansky's group of friends include emigration, namely a rift in terms of language, culture, family, community. From the viewpoint of the Socialist Realist tradition, the painting observes the past, alluding to days of grand ideologies.

The friends photographed as aliens are neither from here, nor, in fact, from any other known place. Their detachment becomes universal. They are not emigrants from one place to another, but rather eternal migrants, whether homeless or rootless. The ironic piggish image deriding them, ridicules the long tradition of self-portrait photography as a mirror of the soul.

Most of all, this work alludes to the evasiveness of identity and the self-portrait, transforming that very evasiveness into a source of power. This is the power of the immigrant who directs a (greenish) gaze at the canonical local culture and refuses to be appropriated, categorized or encultured into a system that is unable to read his signs. The work generates a distance between different, even contradictory, multi-cultural readings. It attests to possessing a private-biographical-cultural iconography hailing from the artist's culture of origin. However, the autonomy of foreignness evident in the photographs is ultimately exhibited at the very heart of the Israeli art world.

[@LEAD@] All the photographed subjects are Maria Pomiansky's friends, all of them are Russian immigrants, and all of them are portrayed wearing a button on their nose

[@TITLE@] The greenish light falling on the figures implies a position that nullifies the use of representation conventions. Apparently, an Israeli realism of sorts is likewise impossible. The artist employs a practice of masquerading and disguise. The transformation is obtained by means of a single "push" of a button, which changes the entire image of the face.