After a few minutes of taking in the works on display at the Eleanor Harwood Gallery’s showing of Zoe Crosher’s AUTOPORTRAIT: from the Reconsidered Archive of Michelle du Bois, you’re gonna want to head over to the book up at the desk and settle in for a good browse. Because although you’ll catch some hint of it from the collection of photographs on the wall called The Cindy Shermanesque (But She’s the Real Thing), the title is, if anything, an understatement.
Crosher’s work explores the life and adventures of Michelle du Bois, who according to the website “traveled alone through cities in the Pacific Rim and documented her highly sexual and liberated lifestyle, collecting hundreds of tourist photographs, family snapshots, and risque images of herself- and her alter egos” during the Seventies and Eighties. Leafing through page after page of reproduced photographs in the aforementioned exhibit book must be something like the feeling of being given access to the dossier of a con artist at a police station. du Bois swaps out any number of wigs on her journey, adding props like glasses and going from dour dress to flashy, her poses taking on a different character depending on the guise. Grouping them together as Crosher does in pieces like The Cindy Shermaneaque works better than you might think. The proximity of the selected images invariably tricks the mind into believing the photos displayed are of a sequence, whether that is the case or not. Is this the day’s take of a investigator tasked with following a subject? Or are they stills from an unreleased film? Inevitably, narratives emerge, and although they will be all of your own making, it reminds that du Bois was experimenting with narratives of herself. The fact that she found herself the most interesting subject of all, one she worked endlessly on, becomes all the more mysterious when considering Crosher’s provocative title. Because without the latter’s involvement they would have likely remained art that no one knew was art. Thankfully whether du Bois knew or cared, she saw fit to document it all, even if her ideal audience was the one staring back at the camera.