Exhibit at Johnson and Johnson’s Headquarters NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ, May 25th – July 24th, 2012

{about the exhibition}

Inspired by fashion and fairy tales, photographer Claire Rosen constructs whimsical worlds, designs costumes and captures beauty with her camera.  As both a fine art and commercial photographer, Rosen explores the dualities that exist in life.  By working with themes and imagery popularized by fables and children’s stories, Rosen investigates universal truths while appealing to our desire for fantasy.  Lightness and darkness, the real and the imagined, the beautiful and the bizarre – all of these paradoxes permeate Rosen’s work.  Because of their contradictory nature, the tension generated by these pairs entices us to behold, inhabit and get lost in Rosen’s photographic narratives.  Once inside, we take part in an adventure.  Despite having no clear destination, our adventure proves valuable.  We encounter unusual characters, stumble upon enthralling situations and overcome obstacles.  We are challenged by the unfamiliar and then rewarded with experience and knowledge.  Luring us into worlds that blend fact and fiction and onto journeys that make us question that which we know, Rosen encourages us to look at the familiar in new ways.  She spurs us into exploring the human condition.  She allows us to gain insight into ourselves and each other.  She lets us live in a fairy tale.

{about the world headquarters gallery}

The Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters Gallery is located at 1 Johnson & Johnson Plaza, New Brunswick, NJ 08933.  The gallery is open to the public by appointment only.  If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact Stacey Hecht by phone at 732.524.6957 or by email at shecht2@its.jnj.com.

{about the corporate art program}

As part of its community outreach in New Jersey, Johnson & Johnson is committed to social, environmental and cultural programs that improve the livability of communities. The Corporate Art Program highlights current artistic endeavors and features work of living New Jersey artists as well as artists who deal with themes related to science, healthcare, consumerism, and New Jersey culture. In 2012, Johnson & Johnson will sponsor 13 art exhibitions, six in its World Headquarters Gallery and seven in its local New Jersey galleries.

{to schedule a visit, contact}

Stacey Hecht
Corporate Art Intern at Johnson & Johnson
Telephone: 732.524.6957
E-mail: shecht2@its.jnj.com

The Paradoxical World of Claire Rosen

essay by Heather Cammarata-Seale

The relationship between fine art and commercial art has long been fraught with controversy.  Their interaction is often a source of tension.  Susan Sontag asserts that photographs “are clouds of fantasy and pellets of information” which have the ability to show not only beauty, but the world and our relation to it.[i]  Fine art photographs utilize their connection with truth to both display and construct new understandings of reality, producing provocative pellets of information.  On the other hand, fashion photographs, or idealized clouds of fantasy, function in the commercial sphere, using the medium to present stylish commodities and persuade the public into purchasing them.  However, according to Susan Kismaric’s Fashioning Fiction in Photography Since 1990, fashion photography has recently aligned itself with fine art, becoming more pellet-like by focusing on illuminating facets of contemporary clothing and life, privileging meaning over commercial intent.  By crossing the border into artistic territory, fashion photography has gained critical attention, demanding that this commercial outlet be reevaluated for its artistic merits, messages and social value.

Contemporary photographer Claire Rosen straddles the line dividing these two photographic domains, producing both independently conceived projects and those commissioned for commercial use.  Inspired by photographers such as Sarah Moon, Annie Liebowitz, Tim Walker, and Erwin Olaf, Rosen stages seductive scenes that appeal to our need for information and fantasy.  In order to blend these two seemingly paradoxical realms, these photographers, including Rosen, look to the fairy tale for insight into the human condition.

“Human beings have a deeply rooted need to create and identify with narratives, an instinct linked with the tendency we have to see our lives as a story.  We look to narratives for insight into our past and present, and as crystal balls hinting at our future.  Narratives represent our deepest fantasies and desires,” and photographer Claire Rosen constructs and chronicles our cravings by evoking the enchanting yet foreboding fairy tale in her work.[ii]  Attracted to the beautiful and the bizarre, the whimsical and the rational, the commercial and the theoretical, Claire Rosen carefully composes photographs that are both familiar and fresh, that entice contemplation and elicit consumer impulses.  By wrapping memories of childhood in a blanket of darkness, Rosen blends innocent nostalgia with elements of adult longing.

Claire Rosen’s tales are populated by pastry-eating pigs, women lost in the written word or lush landscapes, and taxidermied creatures waiting to be reanimated.  The inhabitants of Rosen’s photographs recall the literary characters present in fables penned by the likes of the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Anderson.  However, despite the perceived notion that these stories were written solely for children, fairy tales were in fact created to appeal to a broad audience.  Their exploration of universal themes and abstract truths affect us in childhood and throughout adulthood. [iii]  At a young age, these tales expose us to everyday realities and teach us how to overcome real world obstacles.  The appeal of the fairy tale has endured for hundreds of years, proving that the lessons learned in youth indeed serve us well later in life.  Fairy tales have become fundamental in forming the ways we understand and manage the world around us, explaining why their motifs have become popular in the field of commercial design.  Furthermore, it is the everlasting appeal of the fairy tale that makes Claire Rosen’s photographs resonate on multiple levels.

In both her fine art and advertising projects, Rosen situates her characters in different terrains.  Some exist in scenes of pastoral bliss, symbolic of childhood innocence.[iv]  Others suggest entry into foreign terrain, representing the loss of purity and the gain of vanity.[v]  A third and always present element in Rosen’s work is the inevitability of death, empowering us to revel in the moment and give in to our desires, encouraging us to seek out the unobtainable qualities and consumable products she makes so enticing.

No matter the subject or scene, all of Rosen’s work is infused with a captivating light: a light that is surrounded by darkness, a light that beckons us to move closer, a light that urges us to uncover that which is hidden.  Whether creating a diaphanous haze, an ethereal glow, or a crisp stillness, Rosen’s light allures us and persuades us.  Fashion advertising’s power relies on its ability to invoke a sense of longing in the spectator, encouraging us to imagine ourselves completing the narrative present in the photograph.[vi]   The ambiguity present in fashion photography not only pervades Rosen’s fashion-based imagery but her fine art work as well.  This ambiguity leads to temptation, luring us into worlds that blend fact and fiction, lightness and darkness, life and death.

Once upon a time, it became clear that “we have many questions, and with questions answers have to follow.  The answers become stories; many stories told us how to act and how to look and what to see.”[vii]   In the end, these answers spurred photographers to explore the human condition in fantastical yet relatable ways, allowing us to answer our questions by viewing their beautiful stories.

Heather Cammarata-Seale
Exhibitions Coordinator, Corporate Art Program
Johnson & Johnson

i Susan Sontag. “In Plato’s Cave,” in On Photography. Picador: New York, 1977.
ii Edwards, Kathleen A. Acting Out: Invented Melodrama in Contemporary Photography. Washington: University of Washington Press, 2005, 6.
iii Williams, Gareth. Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design. V&A Publishing:  London, 2009, 32.
iv Ibid, 15.
v Ibid.
vi Edwards, 13.
vi Jurgen Bey quoted in: Williams, Gareth. Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design. V&A Publishing:  London, 2009.

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