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'Shifting Perspectives' featuring 'Sarah After Vermeer'
by Richard Bailey

 

Sarah after Vermeer

Sarah Gordy is an actress who has played characters in television, radio and stage plays. Sarah transcends type casting in so many ways creating characters who are original and exceptional. Her body of work goes far beyond playing 'characters who have Downs Syndrome' and her wit and charm, plus a determination to get it right however complex the language is, make her a performer who can make the audience believe she is whoever she says she is. I would work with Sarah any time."
Lisa Evans, Playwright

Having heard about Sarah's versatility as an actress I approached Sarah to collaborate with me in reconstructing Vermeer's encounters with his sitters. Sarah's grace, charm and character were perfect to emulate Vermeer's elegant studies; with a modern twist. Vermeer's images with their soft and graceful tones, subtle shadows and careful light show how significant lighting is to a strong image. Some people say that a Vermeer work shouts in soft shadows. This description could also be applied to Sarah, in that by carrying herself so well and by speaking so eloquently she is able to show 'the public' that people with Down's syndrome are so much more than an outdated stereotype. By being herself she is making a very loud statement.

'Within the history of western art, the door stands for an image of both physical and metaphysical transformation and the space of the doorway takes on a character of "in-betweenness" and functions as a subliminal invitation to participate in the narrative which unfolds within the depicted image.'

I liked the idea of Sarah as an actress being able to change herself, to walk through the door in the picture and to become another person, another character in her work, but also on another level, as a young lady with Down's syndrome to change people's views of her and her abilities.

From the starting point of 'A Maid Asleep', we carried on to some of the other Vermeer paintings where we had a bit of fun recreating some beautiful scenes.


'Shifting Perspectives'

In 2003 a group of local photographers who all had children with Down's syndrome and they put up a small exhibition for Down's syndrome awareness week. One of our visitors was Susan Andrews, a Senior Lecturer from The London Metropolitan University, who asked if we would like to participate in 'Photomonth', held in the East End every year. From there 'Shifting Perspectives' developed. In 2005 the Down's Syndrome Association asked me if I would like to exhibit my work at the OXO Tower Gallery in London for the start of Down's syndrome Awareness week. I brought the 'Shifting Perspectives' photographers with me and it has now been an annual event at the OXO. With support from the Down's syndrome association and generous funding from GlaxoSmithKline, the work has evolved and grown to form a substantial piece of work.

I have introduced new people to the group, and as the years go by it looks certain that more photographers will be involved. Some of the imagery deals with the photographers own emotions and feelings at the birth of their children, some look outside to see how others view Down's syndrome, whilst others are documentations of their lives or ask people with Down's syndrome how they see themselves. We also have a burgeoning group of artists, who themselves have Down's syndrome.

Before 'Shifting Perspectives' started there was little positive imagery surrounding Down's syndrome. Many of the images would be of a medical or charity based nature and it should be noted that less than twenty years ago, images such as ours would neither have been made or seen.........


Richard Bailey - Photographer and Curator of 'Shifting Perspectives'.

If you would like to learn more about the 'Shifting Perspectives' exhibition please contact Richard Bailey or Alexa Dizon at the DSA.
www.downs-syndrome.org.uk
www.shiftingperspectives.org

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