May 6, 2005

Andrea Modica’s Treadwell/Fountain

By Geneva Gamez

On an even darker note that doesn’t get brighter even in the photographs, is Andrea Modica’s double series exhibition, Treadwell and Fountain. Fountain is a series of photographs that she took to show what it was like growing up in Fountain, Colorado. There are varying photos of children, butchered and dead animals lying simply on the ground –other times shown posed for the camera.

In Treadwell, Modica takes us along in a journey that seems all too long until it reaches its end. This is the first museum exhibition of the series since its completion with 22 platinum prints and 17 previously unexhibited images.

Modica began this series in 1986, when she was driving by her subject’s home in upstate New York and noticed Barbara (her main subject) sitting outside her home. Ever since, Modica formed a relationship with Barbara, who at that time was 7 years old, and began photographing her for the following 15 years, until Barbara’s death in 2002.

Treadwell. By Andrea Modica

This series is a nice contrasting compliment to Edward Burtynsky’s photographs, as it also pertains to the destruction of life, except here, we see the direct impact of human to human as oppose to human to land. Treadwell is composed of a social cruelty towards an innocent child that is hard to swallow.

Photographs of Barbara at the early stages of her childhood are sweet and forgiving, she looks at the camera, smiles and blushes away, even in black and white and under all the darkness, the color is picked up as her glittering eyes speak of a future. From photo number one through the last photo taken of her, it is obvious that Barbara has an obesity problem which escalated as she got older.  

Throughout the series of photographs taken at different times in her life and perhaps the most key stages, we see dramatic transitions in character. In her childhood photos there’s an innocence that is felt; as she is photographed in her teenage years, you’ll begin to see the deterioration of a sweet character that is all but hopeful of a future. The spark in her eyes remains, but the look is deeper and daring. There are photos of her posing for the camera as if to criticize society by screaming “look I am beautiful!” In others she doesn’t seem as rebellious and instead shows how weakening this state of being makes her.

In a photo taken when she is approximately 13 years old, she shows a scarred arm reaching for the window as if helplessly procuring aid. The marks on her arms read suicide all over -perhaps of the many attempts she made to end her life or maybe they were just sad reminders of her abusive parents.

In 1994, Modica photographs Barbara in what is perhaps the most symbolic photo that puts the rest of the series into perspective.  Here she is looking away from the camera, symbolic of her turn away from life, from the world and existence. In most of the photos she is either lying on the bed or sitting in a room, rarely is she later in her life caught outdoors, as she often was as a child. Her outings are nonetheless but the sofa, every other day is spent in her room –her space, her bed.

By calculating the difference in years, Barbara is presumably 15 years old when this photo is taken, an age that can turn fatal to almost anyone that is gone unaccepted in our society.

The fact that Barbara sits between two windows in this picture while ignoring their existence, as she looks straight into the corner of the wall tells us that she has evolved past the struggle of trying to reach for all that’s outside, instead, she prefers to keep the windows closed.

You’ll find Treadwell /Fountain a bit disturbing at times, with haunting images as raw as can be in making you face a truth. This is an exhibition that fails to adorn the walls beautifully, but succeeds in showing us the beauty that comes from within.

Andrea Modica’s work will be shown at the Museum of Photographic Arts through Sunday, May 22nd. MoPA is located in the Casa De Balboa building, east of the main traffic circle and central fountain in Balboa Park. For more information call (619) 238-7559.

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