Leigh Ledare, Double Bind, At Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery in Chelsea, NY (2010)
American Artist Leigh Ledare’s project Double Bind (2010) at the Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery in Chelsea, NY offers a unique and warped perspective into intimacy and identity through the collaboration of a very unlikely trio. Ledare, his ex wife Meghan Ledare-Fedderly, and her new husband, Adam Fedderly, work together to produce two bodies of photographic images that illustrate a very complex love triangle.
After being married for five years and divorced for five more, Ledare convinces Meghan to join him for a weekend getaway where he photographs her for three days at a remote cabin. Two months later, he arranges the same trip for Meghan and her new husband, also a professional photographer, who agrees to shoot using similar parameters. The near 1000 images were then developed, compiled, and displayed alongside various archival media images and text, many of a pornographic nature, to make up the content of Double Bind. All images taken by Ledare are displayed on a black background while those taken by Meghan’s current husband appear on white.
The photographs taken by Ledare contain an unmistakable erotic ambiguity but a short note accompanying the exhibit confirms that the three days spent in Meghan’s company were the most they had been together since separating and that nothing sexual happened between them. The images are vulnerable and full of yearning. Here one sees how love, specifically love that exists only in the past, can morph into a new tenderness and a deep specificity of understanding for something that is felt but can never be articulated.
Speaking of the project in an interview with Destricted Revue publications, Ledare comments that “the project doesn’t attempt to essentialize an image of her [Meghan], but rather to ask how these relationships triangulate, and how one party, involved in their own representation, attempts through their representation to articulate something to a third party”. The question begins to be about how the gaze of another can define someone else. How a certain gaze is permissible from one entity but unattainable from a different origin. Ledare pushes us to question the relationship that travels between the photographer, the camera lens, and the subject. The pictures tell us nothing about who ‘she’ really is, except in regard to these two competing gazes.
There are two comparative structures simultaneously at work in Double Bind: the comparison of the photos by Ledre and Fedderly and then Meghan against the appropriated media images. In the second, our cultural and media experiences, instead of personal relationships, model our understanding of identity.
Walking around the exhibit, I could not help but feel a sense of intimacy with the women whose form is repeated over and over again. Her distinctive eyes stare out from every corner of the room. It is not hard to imagine why Meghan might have agreed to the project, as some aspect of it is undeniably flattering. She takes on muse-like qualities. It is harder to understand what could have motivated Fedderly to participate. I am not sure a satisfactory answer is ever articulated.
There is no mistaking that Ledare has taken on a challenging and complex project with Double Bind. I think as a purely aesthetic accomplishment, it succeeds brilliantly. The photographs of Meghan are hauntingly beautiful. My favorite moments of the exhibition were when the two photographic bodies overlapped and came into harmony, making it impossible to tell which man had taken which photo. The gaze that stares into the camera lens seems equally as tender as it does malevolent. The intimacy resists interpretation but I like it better that way. Conceptually, things get more difficult. The short note from Ledare describing the project was situated outside the main gallery room and was easy to overlook. I think the level of trust between the three of them that must have gone into making this is also impressive. All in all, visiting this exhibit made me excited to explore more of Ledare’s work and I will definitely make a conscience choice to visit exhibitions of his in the future.
1. http://destrictedrevue.com/photography/907646.html. Interview with DESTRICTED REVUE. Leigh Ledare – INTERVIEW- Paris & Brussels -Double exhibition.