Julie Blackmon’s Domestic Bliss

It was serendipity that brought me to art photographer Julie Blackmon‘s images of darkly comedic domestic bliss. But hang on to your chair – they’re anything but the stuff of Good Housekeeping.

Ms. Blackmon’s familial scenes are much to do with managed chaos: fleeing figures, flying umbrellas, dangling babies – as danger lurks everywhere. Upscale suburban docudrama? Meet Ren Magritte.

Be forewarned: the precarious comings-and-goings will make you grin and make you cringe, as crisply composed images are undeniably witty and just plain smart.

Ms. Blackmon merges details-a-plenty (be sure to pay attention) with “every mom’s” contemporary reality. Mix in ample art historical references (17th century painter Jan Steen among them) and the result? Family life in its prime – mildly mad, and utterly timeless.

I admit it’s hard to choose among so many sparkling photographs, but I’m particularly drawn to the Domestic Vacations series: Broken Toy (2006), High Chair (2006), New Baby (2006), and Time Out (2005) are among my favorites. Boar Head made me laugh out loud – literally – and Family Portrait is like looking in a mirror, about a dozen years back.

But don’t stop there – recent work is equally enticing.

Party Lights is funny, terrifying, and every mother’s nightmare – an impeccably rendered scene of Dad with babe in arms, child on a ladder, pitchfork poised to puncture, and toddler unattended. Visually, meticulous forms add subtle pleasure to this comical (near catastrophic) slice-of-life.

As for Ms. Blackmon’s parody of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” without its well-known prop? I had to smile. The pitchfork found its home in Party Lights.

For veterans of the parenting wars (or those still in the trenches), Ms. Blackmon’s work is sharp, humorous, and strangely cathartic.

Check out Julie Blackmon’s site, including Mind Games. You’re sure to enjoy the visit.

Images posted with permission of Ms. Blackmon.

© D A Wolf