Let Virtue Be Your Guide by Frances F. Denny

Issue 81

Let Virtue Be Your Guide examines the artist’s family and their deeply rooted history as early settlers of New England. One ancestor, John Howland, was a deckhand aboard The Mayflower. Unearthing the idea of feminine “virtue” from the confines of its historical meaning, the photographs of the women in the artist’s family have a watchful quality, as if the artist is defining for herself what it means to be a woman. Her sitters, and the domestic spaces they inhabit, together evoke a distinct and well-worn privilege. In the photographs seams pull apart exposing the shifts occurring across generations of women. The resulting collection of images becomes a search for meaning in heritage, a challenge to the notion of legacy, and the artist’s reckoning with a traditional version of American femininity.

Photographs included in Let Virtue Be Your Guide were taken between 2011-2014. They were made in nine private residences located in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. The title of the series references a 1982 Rhode Island Historical Society exhibition of colonial girls’ embroidery samplers.

A monograph of this work, published by Radius Books, is out this month. The series is currently on view at ClampArt in New York City.

Frances F. Denny lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
To view more of Frances' work, please visit her website.

Edith, with a portrait of her ancestor (Milton, MA) 2013

Edith, with a portrait of her ancestor (Milton, MA) 2013

Floral patterns (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

Floral patterns (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

My mother's hands (Salem, MA) 2012

My mother's hands (Salem, MA) 2012

Hope, in the guest bedroom (Bar Harbor, ME) 2012

Hope, in the guest bedroom (Bar Harbor, ME) 2012

Portrait of my grandmother, at my mother's house (Cambridge, MA) 2012

Portrait of my grandmother, at my mother's house (Cambridge, MA) 2012

China pantry (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

China pantry (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

Aunt N., before her portrait (New York, NY) 2013

Aunt N., before her portrait (New York, NY) 2013

Attic (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

Attic (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

Touch (Isle au Haut, ME) 2013

Touch (Isle au Haut, ME) 2013

My mother, after her swim (Prettymarsh, ME) 2014

My mother, after her swim (Prettymarsh, ME) 2014

Walk (Isle au Haut, ME) 2013

Walk (Isle au Haut, ME) 2013

Hierarchies (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

Hierarchies (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

Polka dot blouse (Providence, RI) 2014

Polka dot blouse (Providence, RI) 2014

Lali, Woods Hole (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

Lali, Woods Hole (Woods Hole, MA) 2013

Moving boxes (Milton, MA) 2013

Moving boxes (Milton, MA) 2013

Cake (Cambridge, MA) 2013

Cake (Cambridge, MA) 2013

My mother, Thanksgiving (Cambridge, MA) 2013

My mother, Thanksgiving (Cambridge, MA) 2013

Tablecloth (Milton, MA) 2013

Tablecloth (Milton, MA) 2013

Edith, at home (Milton, MA) 2013

Edith, at home (Milton, MA) 2013

My mother, Salem cemetery (Salem, MA) 2012   images courtesy of ClampArt, New York City

My mother, Salem cemetery (Salem, MA) 2012

 

images courtesy of ClampArt, New York City