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Jane's Journey series 2008

Derek Michael Besant TEXT PDF
Bernard Lamarche TEXT PDF
The imagery of “Jane's Journey” presents a para- autobiographical fairytale. It resonates with irony and humor in its individualistic detail and yet remains starkly archetypal in its anonymity. It's compositional subtext of geometric supremacy saturated in the colour schemes of a de Chirico or Diebenkorn, supply these unnervingly depopulated travel-scapes, with eerie significance. They transcend 'Jane' and reach toward 'Jainism' searching for spiritual independence, for a state of equanimity. Bonnie Baxter's 'Jane' hovers dramatically and poignantly between the requirements of the present and the desire for eternity.
Christine Unger



EUROPE
Paris (monuments)
Digital Print on Diasec
97.79 cm x 129.54 cm

(38.5 x 51inches) each
Paris Chambre (hotel)
Digital Print on Diasec
97.79 cm x 129.54 cm

(38.5 x 51inches) each
Bain Paris (room/bath)
Digital Print on Diasec
129.54 cm x 97.79 cm
(51 x 38.5 inches) each
Italie Pêche (forano) Digital Print on Polypropylene
panel 1: 129.54 cm x 97.79 cm (51 x 38.5 inches) each, panel 2 & 3: 97.79 cm x 129.54 cm (38.5 x 51inches) each


VAL-DAVID
Dreamscape Digital Print on Diasec, 97.79 cm x 129.54 cm (38.5 x 51inches) each


Dark Forest
Digital Print on Diasec
97.79 cm x 129.54 cm

(38.5 x 51inches) each
Fall
Digital Print on Diasec
panel 1: 97.79 cm x 129.54 cm
(38.5 x 51inches)
panel 2: 129.54 cm x 97.79 cm
(51 x 38.5 inches)
Green House (summer)
Digital Print on Polypropylene
97.79 cm x 129.54 cm

(38.5 x 51inches) each


SOUTH-WEST UNITED STATES
Southwest Digital Print on Diasec, 97.79 cm x 129.54 cm (38.5 x 51inches) each



ROUTE 66
Route 66 Digital Print on Polypropylene, 97.79 cm x 129.54 cm (38.5 x 51inches) each


CALIFORNIA
Monarch Beach Digital Print on Polypropylene, 97.79 cm x 129.54 cm (38.5 x 51inches) each


Film noire en rose Digital Print on Polypropylene, 97.79 cm x 129.54 cm (38.5 x 51inches) each


Fog
Digital Print on Polypropylene
129.54 cm x 97.79 cm
(51 x 38.5 inches) each
Voyage
Digital Print on Diasec
panel 1: 97.79 cm x 129.54 cm
(38.5 x 51inches)
panel 2: 129.54 cm x 97.79 cm
(51 x 38.5 inches)
A Commentary on The State of Jane

Richard Gagnier (2012)
Translation: Cory McAdam

The State of Jane constitutes a photographic project by Bonnie Baxter. It is built around a single individual, Jane, who through her insertion into a variety of sites and landscapes, makes a statement that is at once biographical, cinematic, and imaginary. Primarily, Jane is a visual composition. As such, her construction becomes an affirmation of the photographic subject and within it, is woven an ensuing critical stance on the female psyche. The project also draws other practices in its wake that have piqued interest in photography and video in recent years; notably auto-fiction and the way in which it differs from the self-portrait. The series wraps itself in the aspect of auto-fiction to better keep its strategies at a critical distance.

The real—and unreal—fall under scrutiny in this project; such is photography today that digital technology can appropriate, manipulate, and evoke pure fiction, despite being modeled on reality. And there may or may not be, reality, supported by “what has been” (the famous “ça a été” of Barthes), as, in this case, the sites featured seem to have been visited or re-visited. The entire focus revolves around a single person, viewed over and over again as in a family photo album and in as many venues. The choice of venues borders on the cliché: Paris, the Tuscan countryside, the American southwest, and Route 66 that leads to it. Thus photography plays this other role: a documentary one, carrying us along to witness what it ultimately produces, what it roots out, how it inevitably reconstructs the site to create an idealized artificiality. Set against the recurring presence of Jane, these larger than life shots tell a story over time, a story now void of drama; any that might have been, is gone, relegated to memory. What emerges is another way to restore the use of photography to oneself, to the self, helping affirm this presence, her presence, a presence merged into the site like some interior landscape.

Who then is this other person, this ‘other’ of the artist whose existence is confirmed, if only by her perambulations around the planet? We may see her as a subject, and given her attributes, a female subject with no intention of disguise. Perhaps persona is a better interpretation, a highly autonomous creature, an offshoot of the artist’s thoughts, but one with, and shaped by, her own disposition. She acts, she reflects, and she expresses, as is borne out in the aesthetic position reinforced by the series. She seems to reveal a certain destiny, itself a re-affirmation of the subject, yet she determinedly resists being drawn into the narration. This resistance is no doubt due to the fact that each image seems suspended in time, further energizing the series. And that suspension gradually gives way to contemplation, notably of the landscape. There is also the sense of a retrospective gaze in that suspension of time (Jane is from a certain age), yet this gaze is never revealed to us. The blond coiffure—the wig—has lost the platinum blond flamboyance of one’s prime, and the clothing and poses suggest none of the illustrative imperatives dictated by the code of fashion. In fact, what we see is our subject facing an urge to spurn the photographic corps, who have long toyed with female seduction and its many facets, leading to its objectification through domination of the eye of the viewer. The eye here is that of the subject herself, surveying the scene and inviting us to survey it as well. It is hardly surprising that her back is to us at all times, that she is so often in the foreground, yet virtually excluded from the field of the photograph itself. The wig becomes our constant, our index.

And she has a name: Jane, an educational icon, synonymous with the “Dick and Jane” books that were used to teach generations of North American schoolchildren to read. But which, in the process, brashly imposed cultural and social values: those of a white, comfortable middle class with pre-defined behaviors and expectations, the class that epitomized the American way of life after World War II, the class of would-be universal contentment. Our Jane is from this world, but she has escaped it. She has sought out her own life experiences. She has individualized herself. She has put time (inseparable from photography, which snatches it up and discards it somewhere) between the memory, the broken fragments of fiction, the moments of reflection, and the affirmation of a state of being, which the landscape returns to her, in contemplation.

Jane is about all of this, and by inference, she, is about Bonnie Baxter.

The State of “Jane”

by Christine Unger

Jane, Jane, sweet baby Jane, Lady Jane Grey, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Calamity Jane, Dick and Jane, Tarzan's Jane, Jane Seymour (3rd wife of King Henry the VIII), Jane Seymour the actress, Jane Wyman, Jane Russell, Jayne Mansfield, Jane Goodall, Jane Fonda, Plain Jane and of course, Jane Doe-there is probably no other name in western culture that resonates so thoroughly through the female psyche even though, or maybe because, it's popularity has suffered a steady drop since the early 1960s.

Bonnie Baxter's series Jane's Journey was engendered by a renewed connection with the imagery of the Dick and Jane series of early childhood readers. So many of us learned our first lessons from Dick and Jane readers, readers that taught us our place in the world in the simplest, most redundant language possible. In brightly colored, hypnotic repetition, the worldview of Dick and Jane's America was imprinted onto our psyches more convincingly, more ineradicably, than any religious doctrine. The perfect suburban family unit, Mother, Father, Dick and Jane and Spot, in a perfect paternal hierarchy ensconced in the perfect little white picket fenced household. The great dumbing/numbing down of America (in which I include Canada) held sway from the 1930s to the mid-70s.

Other artists have taken on the subject of 'Jane' exposing her sexist representation and the pervasive bureaucratic and authoritarian impositions she excuses. Bonnie's 'Jane' has moved far beyond a simple gendered reaction to a childhood reader. 'Jane' is on a journey. Jane's Journey rings like an echo at the back of the head, a thought you can't quite formulate, an idea that sits at the tip of your tongue and then ... There is no simple statement here about gender and identity. Life is layered and complex and defies our expectations - it is by definition, a symptom of change. The definition of 'Jane', is a living one, something new for every generation and every individual.

Jane's Journey traces a parallel autobiography of Bonnie Baxter herself. Bonnie steps outside of herself and slightly to one side. Using herself as a model with her partner Michel Beaudry behind the camera, Bonnie allows 'Jane' to revisit her private geography-the homes and roads of her past, from Texas where she grew up as a child, to France and Italy where she broke open her American blinders, to California (her mother's final home), and Val-David, Québec where she renews and recreates herself on a daily basis. The powerful imagery of Jane is both highly personal and profoundly embracing of the human condition. It questions the basis of our individuality, but it refuses to entirely reject our need for conformity. Jane's Journey accepts the contradictory nature of life: the absurd and the beautiful, the tragic and ironic, the private and public, all coexist in a synchronous whole. The most common flower-the plainest Jane-is a unique individual when she travels, when she looks out into the world and asks the question, “who am I?”-and the view of the world itself re-emerges in brighter colours and stronger relief.

Jane's averted gaze and that inescapable wig of blond 'Jane-ness' give her anonymity and emphasize the severe and edgy psychodrama of her surroundings. Her lonely figure perches at the edge of the unknown - just beyond lie the outer-limits of a surreal and inexplicably unpopulated landscape. Her incongruous presence creates an uncomfortable tension, a forlorn expectation. In Jane's travels, her strangely artificial-self is the central character in sequence of scenes that feel hauntingly familiar: a postcard image, a movie still, an illustration from a book. Yet, in every instance she is inexplicably alone and that vague familiarity only serves to emphasize the iconic nature of her presence and tickle our sense of memory with a feeling of déjà vu.

There is, sometimes, one other presence, though not a human one. In earlier series, Bonnie incorporated the presence of a small toy Chihuahua she calls chi-chi-doggie into her work. The Chi-chi doggie played the role of trickster or shamanic guide in Bonnie's process. In Jane's Journey, a great wolfhound, Bonnie's true-life canine companion, Lupé, often accompanies Jane. Her larger than life, yet oh-so-gentle demeanor and stance, suggest that the scenes we are witnessing are somehow supernatural, a place as much a part of the past or the future as of a captured-present. Her mute existence acts as benevolent spirit rather than guide or talisman: a constant but temperate reminder that the limits of nature always stand guard at the edges of imagination.

Jane/Bonnie wanders in the idyllic hills of Italy-visiting old homes and old haunts, she looks out at the wondrous manmade achievement of the Eiffel Tower, locates herself on Highway 66, rests at the edge of the grand canyon (no country for old women), visits a parental home bathed in the hip, hard light of Mulholland Drive-like, California suburbs; she sits at the edge of a great ocean, solitary but for circling birds; stands queen-like at the edge of a Narnia-esque winter landscape... Everywhere Jane/Bonnie goes, she seems to ask, what is me and what is “she”.

The imagery of Jane's Journey has a fairytale resonance-simultaneously rich with irony and humor in its individualistic detail and starkly archetypal in its anonymity. It's compositional subtext of geometric supremacy saturated in the colour schemes of a de Chirico and Dalí, supply these oddly depopulated travel-scapes with eerie significance. They transcend 'Jane' and reach toward 'Jainism' searching for spiritual independence, for a state of equanimity. Bonnie Baxter's 'Jane' hovers dramatically and poignantly between the requirements of the present and the desire for eternity.