+April 18, 2020
Canadian born artist and photographer Marianna Rothen (@mariannarothen) lives and works in New York. Marianna’s series Mail Order is the first work she has created where men have appeared. It shows several female characters who have appeared in Marianna’s other bodies of work. Marianna’s previous work explored the universe of only her female characters. These archetypes, inspired by classic Hollywood – the femme fatale, blonde bombshell, etc. play into the cinematic style of Mail Order. The images appear as if a movie still from the 1960s, reminiscent of Cindy Sherman’s early work. There are strong visual connections to Marilyn Monroe and the 1950s – 1960s era of Hollywood. Marianna plays each of the female characters in her series.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Mail Order is that all of the male characters are mannequins and not real people. Existing in a post #MeToo world, Rothen's series has much to say about contemporary gender politics. Instead of the male gaze that has dominated popular culture for many years, the gaze of each of the female protagonists dominates each of the male characters. This reversal of the gaze turns them into her “perfect” version of a man, taking their orders from a woman and thus a woman taking back her power. Through this swap in dynamic of power we’re able to see how ingrained in our culture traditional gender roles are.
The creation of Mail Order was truly a one woman show. Marianna used 15 different mannequins, setting up a new scene each day to both photograph and perform in. She stayed at a house in the country for two and a half months alone to create the series. In many of the images it’s not at all evident that the male character is a mannequin. The image titled Half a Man is a perfect example. The viewer gets a glimpse only of the man’s legs and his hand, holding a cigarette. It’s an intimate scene, the viewer peeks into this private moment where something climactic is about to happen. The viewer can infer from the female’s facial expression that she is what is commanding the man’s attention.
Mail Order is Marianna’s third monograph with b.frank books and can be purchased at www.bfrankbooks.com. Her work has been shown in galleries in several countries including the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York and Kaune Contemporary in Cologne. She has been featured in many publications including The New Yorker, Vogue, and Huffington Post.