Carolyn Drake

“INTERNAT 2014-17

This series was made at a still-operating Soviet orphanage which removes children with disabilities from society at large. In particular, this institution houses young females marked with disabilities, and carries them into adulthood in isolation. I actively collaborated with the residents, drawing ideas from cliches and fairy tales, and following our joint aspirations while passing time in the seclusion of the institution. Nature, objects found on the premises of the orphanage, and the thick walls surrounding the facility became vehicles for exploring questions about social control, individual vs collective identities, the freedoms of the imagination, and the construction of normal female behavior.

The artwork that opens and closes the book was made over the pages of a book about Taras Shevchenko, a 19th century Ukrainian artist, ethnographer, serf, peasant, poet and imprisoned political figure who is widely revered today. I invited the women to paint on the artwork made by Shevchenko and his male contemporaries, re-imaging the published pages of history. In doing so they became artists, creators, ethnographers, and designers themselves.

The images were made between 2014 and 2016, but my involvement with the women began years earlier when I was living in the region and first met and photographed them as children.  I returned in 2014, expecting that the girls would have graduated out of the orphanage, but found most of them still living there.”

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