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color digital images, Cahun's portrait is black and white, sizes vary

The images included in the project My Claude / My Medusa arose as something of a surprise phenomenon. Wiggins and her collaborator, photographer Luís Branco, were attempting to shoot a recreation of an image /self-portrait French feminist artist Claude Cahun (1894-1954) had made in 1914, when she was just 20 years old. In 2019, when Wiggins and Branco shot this series of images, Wiggins was 63 years old. In both images, the artists lay on a pillow with their hair splayed and coiling around their faces. Cahun wears no makeup, Wiggins is heavily “made-up.” They both gaze directly at the camera, and the viewer. Wiggins was shocked when she first saw this series of images of herself. Her first thought was “Oh my god, I look like Medusa.”

Upon further examination and some research into the history, mythology and representation of Medusa throughout time, Wiggins came to the conclusion that Medusa is a worthy and interesting heroine to embody and examine. Medusa is fascinating for all her conflicting and contrary traits. Medusa repels and attracts at the same time. She is a snake monster and a sexy goddess. She unites beauty with the beast. She is not always feminine, she displays male characteristics, you could say “queer” characteristics. She hangs out at the gates of Hades and lingers in the twilight zone between life and death. She represents a liminal space between the visible and the invisible. She occupies a territory where dreams and the unconscious are displayed.

And then there is the “gaze”… (the one that turns only men to stone) and the question of who is looking at whom?
(photography by Luís Branco except the one of Claude Cahun)