This exhibition by New York based photographer Eva O’Leary, her first in Ireland, included previously unseen work from her award-winning series Spitting Image, portraits of American girls, photographed through a two-way mirror as they respond to their own reflection. These images revealed the girls’ inherent discomfort at being faced with their own image in front of the lens, and the self-conscious way they, and others, present themselves for the camera.
With an Irish mother, and an American father, Eva has travelled often between the USA and Ireland. This body of work was made in the artist’s hometown in State College, Pennsylvania, also known as Happy Valley, a place that has had a profound influence on her and her work. Eva worked with over 120 female-identifying adolescents between the ages of eleven to fourteen who share her experience of coming of age in this town. The insightful portraits are honest and direct, with each sitter projecting different levels of confidence. The exhibition also included a three-channel single video projection that captures the young girls’ apprehensive examination of their reflections in preparation for the final click of the camera.
Eva O’Leary is an artist with a distinctive vision of contemporary society, which results in work that is reflective, challenging and always compelling. This Spitting Image series goes against traditional notions of beauty and animates the vulnerability of the teenage years, drawing us into a wider consideration of the explosion of the selfie culture and the way we use photography as a tool for self-representation.
About the Artist
Eva O’Leary is a recent winner of the Outset Unseen Exhibition Fund, resulting in an exhibition at Foam (Amsterdam) in 2019. O’Leary graduated from Yale University’s masters of Fine Art programme in 2016 and received a BFA from California College of the Arts in 2012. She was the recipient of the Hyères Festival Photographie Grand Prix in 2018, The Vontobel Contemporary Photography Prize in 2017, and was named a Foam Talent in 2014. Her work has been featured in a range of publications, including ArtForum, Aperture, 1000 Words and The New Yorker. Her work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows both within the United States and abroad, including the CAFA Art Museum (Beijing), LTD Los Angeles (LA), Villa Noailles (Hyeres, France), l’Atelier Néerlandais (Paris).
With thanks to the Arts Council for essential annual funding and to the OPW, Department of Social