Whistler’s Mother Gets a Makeover
This text and the accompanying photos are taken from Judith B. Herman’s article of January 29, 2013 that appears in Slate.com.
All photos are copyright by Aline Smithson.
Aline Smithson loves garage sales. When a single weekend of scavenging yielded a print of the famous 19th-century painting by James McNeill Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black Portrait of the Artist’s Mother,” a leopard coat and hat, a 1950s cat painting, and a chair just like the one in Whistler’s painting, something clicked. Her years of art education, fashion editing, and honing her darkroom skills, plus her sense of nostalgia, love of family, and wacky sense of humor all came together to produce what Smithson calls “the series that put me on the map.”
Over a period of two years, her mother, who was in her mid-80s, sat erect in the “Whistler chair,” presenting her left profile and a perfect deadpan expression in front of Smithson’s lime green garage door for 20 versions of “Arrangement in Green and Black, Portraits of the Photographer’s Mother.” Instead of Anna Whistler’s voluminous black Victorian dress and white lace cap, Katrine Kleihauer Smithson is decked out in get-ups such as a grass skirt and a safari suit. Smithson scoured thrift stores and eBay for costumes and bad paintings with matching themes.
By Jim McKinniss