Julie Blackmon is a photographer whose ongoing series Domestic Vacations is inspired by 17th century Dutch paintings of chaotic domestic life, particularly those by artist Jan Steen – see this painting and you’ll get a good idea. today a “Jan Steen Household” is used to refer to a home in disarray: full of rowdy kids and boisterous family gatherings. Blackmon is the oldest of nine children and herself a mother of three, and so she explores the everyday life of her family and those around her.
These images are both fictional and auto-biographical, and reflect not only our lives today and as children growing up in a large family, but also move beyond the documentary to explore the fantastic elements of our everyday lives, both imagined and real. The stress, the chaos, and the need to simultaneously escape and connect are issues that I investigate in this body of work. We live in a culture where we are both “child centered” and “self-obsessed.” The struggle between living in the moment versus escaping to another reality is intense since these two opposites strive to dominate. Caught in the swirl of soccer practices, play dates, work, and trying to find our way in our “make-over” culture, we must still create the space to find ourselves. The expectations of family life have never been more at odds with each other. These issues, as well as the relationship between the domestic landscape of the past and present, are issues I have explored in these photographs. I believe there are moments that can be found throughout any given day that bring sanctuary. It is in finding these moments amidst the stress of the everyday that my life as a mother parallels my work as an artist, and where the dynamics of family life throughout time seem remarkably unchanged. As an artist and as a mother, I believe life’s most poignant moments come from the ability to fuse fantasy and reality: to see the mythic amidst the chaos.
looking through her work actually made me yearn for the chaos of having a bunch of kids running around (as opposed to looking at them and thinking, yuck, no thanks!) Anton and i are lucky to both have big families, this is how we grew up too, and so family gatherings are often filled with these kind of scenes. i’m sure most people can relate.
all images courtesy of Artsy.