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Large-scale color photographs examine the commonalities of female identity in the US and Lebanon
Andrea, Beirut, Lebanon, from the series A Girl and Her Room, 2010. Rania Matar (American, born 1964). Inkjet print; 28 x 42 in. Courtesy of the artist and Robert Klein Gallery.

CLEVELAND, OH.- In Her Image: Photographs by Rania Matar features 43 large-scale color images by American photographer Rania Matar. In four different series, Matar uses portraiture to examine the nature of female identity in girlhood, adolescence, and middle age in the United States and Lebanon. The photographs address her subjects’ identities, but also reflect her own experiences as a woman of Palestinian origin born and raised in Lebanon. In Her Image: Photographs by Rania Matar is on view at Transformer Station. The exhibition is on view through Sunday, January 13, 2019.

“Rania Matar is an award-winning artist whose work has been exhibited widely in the US and internationally,” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Visitors have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the artist’s monumental photographs, which explore female identity and the artist’s own cross-cultural experience as a Lebanese-born American woman and mother.”

Matar began photographing her children when she became a parent, but the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks led her to focus on using the medium to tell others’ stories. “It seemed that the world had become divided into Them/Us,” recalled the artist. “I wanted to tell a different story of the Middle East.” Her first visit to a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon in 2002 provided additional motivation; she felt a strong and immediate connection with the women, especially the mothers.

“Matar is a masterful portraitist who, by focusing on the individual, reveals truths about the universal experience of what it means to be female,” said Barbara Tannenbaum, chair of prints, drawings, and photographs, and curator of photography. “She establishes a strong and intimate bond with her sitters as she explores the transitions from girlhood through puberty to womanhood and middle age.”

Created between 2009 and 2016, the four series on view: L’Enfant-Femme, Becoming, A Girl and Her Room, and Unspoken Conversations contain examples from both American and Lebanese cultures. The location­ of each photograph is not always evident, a fact that reflects the influence of Western culture on the Middle East, and the artist’s desire to focus on “the commonalities that make us human, to emphasize underlying similarities rather than apparent differences across cultures.”

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