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January 7, 2022 @ 7:00 pm
In Our Gallery – The Angel in the House
Books & Books presents …
The Angel in the House
Gallery Night Opening
Friday, January 7, 7 – 10 PM ET @ Books & Books
On display through Jan. 30.
Be aware that at this time, masks are still required by all patrons inside for all our events. Thank you for your cooperation.
About the Installation:
Virginia Woolf warned that only by “killing the angel in the house” can women be set free to write, to create, to realize our human potential.
She cited an immensely popular Victorian poem that depicted the ideal woman as virtuous, devot- ed to her domestic duties and her husband’s pleasure, and docile despite her misery, loneliness, and abuse. Woolf challenged that definition—and she urged the rest of us to do the same.
Nearly a century after Woolf’s warning, I set out with my camera to see how modern women are faring—in other words, if we’d managed to kill the angel, or at least shoo her out the door. To begin, I swore off the macho, predatory language of photography and pledged that instead of “shooting” or “capturing” my subjects, my subjects would become my “collaborators.”
I called the process: “photo improv.”
Over many cups of coffee, phone calls, emails, and texts, my collaborators and I engaged in deep conversations, often over several months, about our lives. I learned histories through old snap- shots and family lore, and new posts on social media. We talked and traded stories about rela- tionships, power dynamics, worries, dreams, triumphs, and disappointments. I dug into the ways in which they’d arranged their physical spaces, the objects they hold dear, the cluttered book- shelves, the children’s rooms. Slowly the prompt for the picture emerged. Then, working together, we turned their home or garden or rooftop or backyard into a stage, moving set pieces, adding props, selecting wardrobe. My collaborators became actors acting out their own lives. What was revealed was always something none of us could have planned, or scripted. What was revealed was clear: the angel in the house is still very much alive, and she hasn’t much budged.
My journey in this series taught me that Woolf’s warning remains as relevant today as it was in the early 20th century—not such a surprise, especially given how the devastation of the pandemic year highlighted how so many women were left handling everything on the home front. For me, the pictures my collaborators and I created reflect the complexities of this insight; the ways in which our domestic spheres define us, for better and for worse.
The future? That’s a discussion I invite you to join.
–Lanie McNulty, 2021
Photography team: Kylie Wright (post-production and fine art printing), Maria Matthews (editing), Min Jung Kwak and Kwang Min Kim (fine art printing), Aimee Anthony and Sky Frame (framing), Julia Briere (lighting and photo assis- tant), Breanna Cingari-Suden (publicity), Sammy Collinge (photo assistant), Jeri Lampert (post-production), Meagan McEntire (photo assistant), Katie Michel and Planthouse Gallery (exhibition and events), Jesse Morris (gallery assis- tant), and Adela Wagner (photo assistant).
Photobook team: Faride Mereb (design), Deirdre Donohue (foreword), Samoel González (web design), Sophie McNulty (editing), Suzanne Salinetti and The Studley Press (printing), Paul Schorin (editing), and Kate Walbert (interview, editing).
About the Artist:
Lanie McNulty is a New York-based artist and social activist. Her photography series include Lifted Up in New York City, From the Ashes of Rwanda and The Angel in the House. Working in other media, she has created a series of tapestries called Say a Little Prayer for U.S. In her recent photography work, McNulty has developed a collaborative process for creating staged, narrative images. She calls this process: “photo improv.”
McNulty’s work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at Planthouse Gallery, BravinLee Programs, the All Things Project, UpstART Gallery, Umbrella Arts, and the Bronx Presidential Gallery. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, the Hirsch Library at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the University of Victoria Library, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Collection at New York Public Library, and several private collections. In 2009, McNulty was awarded the Bronx Borough President’s Citation for Outstanding Contribution by an Artist and the International Art Movement’s Encounter ‘09 Award. She has been interviewed about her work as an artist and activist on “Tastemakers with Pauline Brown,” “That Black Girl Radio Show,” and the International Art Movement’s “I am IAM” podcast.
McNulty studied photography at the International Center of Photography. She holds degrees from Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and Bank Street College of Education. McNulty lives in Harlem with her husband, Paul McNulty. They have three children.