Maja and Elodie is a large colour photographic diptych. The work was produced in an edition of six plus two artists’ proofs; Tate’s copy in the first in the series. The two photographs comprising the work are almost identical; they appear to show a young girl and a young woman sitting on a small blue Persian carpet in an otherwise empty but grand interior. Spread out between them on the carpet is an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. The carpet rests on a polished wood floor and the egg-shell blue wall behind the figures features elaborate painted panelling. In the left-hand image the woman’s hand extends towards one of the pieces of the puzzle; in the photograph on the right she lifts it slightly off the carpet. The almost imperceptible shadow beneath the puzzle piece in the second image marks the only change between the two images. This minor distinction adds a temporal element to the static compositions, suggesting the passage of time.
Although both characters in the photographs appear life-like, the child is in fact a sculptural element in an artwork by the American hyper-realist sculptor Duane Hanson (1925-96). The girl, the rug and the puzzle are components of Hanson’s Child with Puzzle, 1978 (estate of the artist). The life-size sculpture represents Hanson’s daughter Maja wearing a pink sundress and with a ribbon in her hair. The figure of the girl was cast from life and meticulously constructed in polyvinyl while the other elements of Hanson’s sculpture are found objects. Child with Puzzle is currently on loan to the American Embassy in Paris, where Lockhart staged the Maja and Elodie photographs.
Lockhart’s photographs extend questions raised by Hanson’s uncannily detailed sculpture. By incorporating Hanson’s piece into her own work, Lockhart calls into question the veracity of the photographic image. The stillness of the photographs enhances the realistic qualities of Hanson’s work, making it difficult to discern the difference between the woman and the sculpture of the girl. The work’s title conveys a sense of equality between the two figures, suggesting no distinction between the image of the woman and the image of a pre-existing image of the girl. The almost exactly duplicated images highlight the reproductive nature of Lockhart’s chosen medium. The similarity of the two photographs invites the viewer to discern the tiny differences between them in a manner reminiscent of a childhood game.
Lockhart has extended her engagement with and appropriation of Hanson’s work. Maja and Elodie relates to Lockhart’s four-part photographic work Lunch Break installation, “Duane Hanson: Sculptures of Life,” 14 December 2002 – 23 February 2003, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 2003, in which gallery staff are depicted interacting with the figures of construction workers in Hanson’s sculpture Lunch Break (Three Workers with Scaffold), 1989.
Dominic Molon and Norman Bryson, Sharon Lockhart, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2001.
Karen Moss, Sharon Lockhart + Kelly Nipper: 2 Artists in 3 Takes, exhibition catalogue, Walter & McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute, 2000.
Jan Tumlir, ‘Sharon Lockhart’, Artforum, vol.42, no.5, January 2004, pp.159-60.