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Anna Gaskell

As the Serpent
1996

Not on view

Date
1996

Classification
Photographs

Medium
Chromogenic print

Dimensions
Overall: 48 × 37 7/8 × 3/16in. (121.9 × 96.2 × 0.5 cm)

Accession number
2002.104

Edition
AP 2/3

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate

Known for her haunting depictions of young women in ambiguous scenes, Anna Gaskell began casting girls—specifically identical twins—to reinterpret scenarios from Alice in Wonderland. As the Serpent is from a series of photographs that shows the girls in close-up, extracted from the bright, jewel-like backgrounds that mark her other photographs related to this theme. Here, we see Gaskell’s model head-on, yet the work’s title suggests that she is not posed as herself but is rather playing a role, namely the serpent of the image’s title. Discussing her interest in the Alice books, Gaskell alluded to the enigmatic connection between their author Charles Dodgson (whose pen name was Lewis Carroll) and his muse, a young girl named Alice Liddell. Their relationship was “so complicated and mysterious,” Gaskell stated. “We don’t really know anything about it, but we know enough. There is the possibility of child abuse. His longing for her. I like the danger about it—at some point, being unable to explain it. I like the world that she lived in.” 




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