Pattern Repeats

  • Dates
    2016 - Ongoing
  • Author
  • Location Boston, United States

I began this series shortly after — and in response to — the 2016 presidential election. The photographs are inspired by the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in 1892. In the story, the protagonist suffers from “hysteria.” Her doctors prescribe rest, so her physician husband rents a home in the country for the summer. The narrator spends most of her days in a bedroom staring at the walls. Soon, she notices a woman trapped inside the wallpaper's yellow pattern. The narrator tears the paper from the walls, attempting to set the woman free. The wallpaper in the story becomes a metaphor for the social mores of the Victorian era. The paper itself becomes a metaphor for the narrator’s mental demise.

The wallpaper in my photographs represents an overprotective, oppressive patriarchy that attempts to seduce these modern girls and women toward domestic -- and silent -- complacency. I see tension between the girls and the wallpaper, as one tries to usurp the other. The wallpaper in these images reveals the beauty of an idealized version of home that distracts us, perhaps restrains us, from the tumultuous and often dangerous world beyond.

In the The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator rips the wallpaper to free the woman she sees crawling behind the pattern. The protagonists in my photos are behind — or encompassed by — the wallpaper. They are engulfed within the pattern’s repeats, and perhaps history’s patterns as well. They struggle to find their voice: emerge.

Today, four years after his project began, as we hunker inside our homes as protection from the coronavirus, perhaps we are all in these walls.

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Pattern Repeats by Tira Khan

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