Aurora Reinhard (b. 1975) has been called a “life explorer”. In her art she has long been examining the power and emotional relationships between women and men. Conversely, she has dealt – often very directly – with various issues involved in the pictorial representation of sexuality and gender identity.
Among Aurora Reinhard’s latest works is Martyr (2018) – a white plaster sculpture nearly half a metre high, of a naked woman whose body is pierced by three golden arrows. The work is a kind of self-portrait: it is based on a 3D scan of the artist’s own body, and the arrows refer to romantic encounters that have touched her deeply.
Reinhard seeks the subjects for her works in media and advertising imagery, and in the history of western art. She, nevertheless, interprets the images she finds through her own personal experiences, frequently switching a gender or the direction of a gaze. The background to the Martyr sculpture is the Saint Sebastian familiar from Renaissance art – an officer in the Roman army and a Christian, who lived in the 3rd century AD, miraculously survived execution and, judging by some of the paintings, does not even appear to have suffered very much.
In replacing the male saint with her own body, Reinhard brings the almost two-millennia-old story into the present day. She gives it not only a personal, but also a universally comprehensible significance, associated not with divine relations but with those between human beings.
Aurora Reinhard (b. 1975) has been called a “life explorer”. In her art she has long been examining the power and emotional relationships between women and men. Conversely, she has dealt – often very directly – with various issues involved in the pictorial representation of sexuality and gender identity. In so doing she has also put herself on the line, seeking answers both in front of the camera and behind it. Either disguised or, as in her recent works, without a mask, she herself is the model for her own works.
Recurrent themes include an almost systematic and frequently provocative critique of one-dimensional, idealized images of women. The female figures in her photographic works wear excessive amounts of make-up and dress in a manner that evokes the imagery of pornography. This exaggeration is, nevertheless, so obvious and the means of constructing the illusions so transparent that the works’ real message cannot go unrecognized.
One thing that it is impossible to ignore when faced with Reinhard’s photographs and sculptures is how perfect they are. It is as though they are self-generated or have fallen from heaven, even when they are cracked, like the plaster sculpture Broken (2017). They are reminiscent of (and occasionally also imitate) industrially manufactured luxury products.
And yet the immaculateness of Reinhard’s works is not an end in itself. It is overdone and serves the same goal as the excessive make-up and costumes in her photographs. It brings out the mind’s covert hopes and desires, while at the same time revealing the mirage-like character of the things that fuel them.