Toni Pepe is a Boston-based artist currently teaching at Boston University and Boston College. Her photographs and installation work address the construction of identity and the performativity of narrative, gender, and memory. Toni is most interested in utilizing photography as a forum for interdisciplinary exploration -- she often employs literature, gastronomy, and cinema as source materials for her work. She has exhibited her images throughout the United States and abroad. Toni’s work has been displayed in solo exhibitions at the University of Notre Dame and the Center for Photography Woodstock. In addition, Toni was recently named a 2011 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship Program finalist. Works by Toni Pepe are available through Elizabeth Clement Fine Art, Boston, MA & New York, NY.
The Second Moment
“Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
"I began the series The Second Moment shortly after giving birth to my son. These images explore the act of creation as experienced by the iconic figures of the mother and child, as well as the artist.
The figures pictured (myself and my son) are in direct dialogue with Baroque imagery of women and children. This visual reference is made apparent through scale, lighting, and gesture. These appropriated elements call attention to the lingering narratives of the past and the impact they have on our current perceptions of the body, motherhood, and mortality. Water lines run throughout each of the images emphasizing the artifice of what is being presented. In addition, the subjects appear to be submerged creating yet another barrier between them and the viewer. The narrative, suspended by the photographic image, waits to be resurfaced by the viewer."
The Gesture of Tradition
"The Gesture of Tradition is a series of photographs that deal with the manifestation of identity through domestic tradition and ritual, art history, and the mass media. Familial and cultural history is a specific kind of narrative, one that is shrouded in reverence and subject to memory. The photograph, an object heavily involved with memory and narrative works seamlessly to convey this approach to legacy and identity.
Throughout this series, I strive to implement a sense of history – a narrative beyond the frame, delicately woven into the objects, gestures, lighting, and character. Certain props, poses, and environments have been appropriated from family photographs as well as found snapshots in order to situate the work within a broader dialogue related to memory, performance, and identity. The color palette, use of herbs and plants, as well as the dramatic lighting conjure imagery from Spanish still life to contemporary cinema. Everything within the frame is considered and functions to evoke something in the viewer that is familiar, but perhaps forgotten.
As a photographer, I am concerned with the narratives associated with images – how we remember as an individual, a family, and on a broader scale, as a society. The Gesture of Tradition is a visual attempt at a narrative recollection – to realize what is lost in the preserving nature of the photograph and possibly gained in the process of forgetting.”
The Angle of Repose
“Absence and presence is a recurring theme within this series, implying that each image works to reference something beyond the frame. Photography best portrays this thematic approach since by nature; photographs possess a fundamental quality of absence. All of the elements within the frame—the props, costumes and gestures prompt the notion and tangibility of loss and memory. If we had never met could I still have a memory of you? Can we make present something that is absent?
A variety of performative devices from theater, cinema, and literature reconstruct visions and moments experienced within the walls of the character’s mind. References to memory are embedded in her gestures and body language. Though the poses are appropriated from family photographs, at the same time they evoke the classical and art historical. Recurring motifs such as dust suggest the past, calling to mind the idea of remains and decay.”