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Polly Borland
The Babies
July 22 – August 17, 2017

MIER Gallery is pleased to present Polly Borland’s first solo show of work in Los Angeles opening July 22 and on view through August 17, 2017. Borland is well-known in Europe for her iconic 2001 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II as well as collaborating with musician Nick Cave and actress Gwendoline Christie. Comprising two series of works exhibited in MIER Gallery’s Greenacre spaces, the show presents Borland’s photographic series The Babies in its entirety for the first time in over 15 years alongside knit interpretations of her 2001 portrait of the Queen woven by prisoners in a rehabilitation program in the UK.

Portraying images of raw vulnerability, pathos and a penetrating desire for comfort and care, Borland’s “babies” explores the world of infantalists–adults roleplaying as infants and cared for as such. Dressed only in diapers, often with a pacifier in their mouth, Borland’s disquieting photographs portray subjects acting out of a compensatory need to be loved and nurtured. The images are made more unsettling with the absence of any sexual overtones or narrative, as Borland merges the naked, adult male body with the innocence and vulnerability of an infant. Originally shot for a body of work curated by Nick Cave in 1999, it was the subject of the 2000 book The Babies (PowerHouse) with a foreword by Susan Sontag. As Sontag writes on Borland’s subjects, “They invite our identification…daring us to admit that we too can imagine such feelings, even if we are astonished that some people actually go to the trouble, and assume the shame, of acting them out.”

As part of the exhibition, Borland has also worked with an English prisoner’s arts advocacy organization, Fine Cell Work, to make woven interpretations of her portrait of Queen Elizabeth II taken on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee in 2001. Working within a similar psychological realm as her “babies,” these tapestries interface with people on society’s periphery, in this case literally as inmates of Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Akin to Mike Kelley’s stuffed animal works, or Marnie Weber’s Monsters, the tapestries flatten ideas between high and low forms, relegating the depiction of the British Queen to those officially under her rehabilitation.

Between the two bodies of work, Borland demonstrates her keen photographic lens focusing not only on her unmistakable subjects, but also fixated on the inner subjectivity of the viewer, playing upon their deepest desires, fears and fantasies.

Polly Borland (b. 1959, Melbourne, Australia) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Borland’s career as a photographer and visual artist has spanned over three decades, and she has shown internationally at institutions including National Portrait Gallery, London; University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra; and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Her work is in public and private collections including The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York; National Portrait Gallery, London; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Damien Hirst’s Murderme Collection, London.