Miranda Gatewood

“Myth of a Happy Life”


Myth of a Happy Life clashes two classic genres: portrait and still life. It is reminiscent of 17th century Dutch realist painting (i.e.: Vermeer) in its depiction of a common theme-—a contemporary dining room—-and its lack of idealism. The visual seduction is in the golden light and garishly colorful flowers in contrast to a stark, controlled environment where even the paper clutter of a message board is relegated to a single zone. A seated figure has been superseded by a flower vase that partially obscures him, showing only his flat expression. The dignity of his representation has been discarded in favor of an object closer to the camera. The austerity of the room contributes to the figure’s reduction to an object in this museum of personal and cultural artifacts.


Exhibiting since 1977, I hold an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI, and have had several pieces collected by regional art museums. Each image I make ends up provoking more questions than answers. If it is possible to describe an entire culture within a single photograph, Myth of a Happy Life has come the closest to this, even though I can never totally remove the residue of point of view.

Selected by Julia Dolan, Curator of Photography at the Portland Art Museum.