Marriage — the societal expectations, the whole construct of it, the heavy patriarchal connotations, the rom-coms — is a topic that could be explored in endless works of art. We all have our own experiences and non-experiences with marriage, and marriage, as a 2017 Census Bureau report pointed out, is no longer considered a key part of adulthood. In other words, young people are beginning to deconstruct what it means to be married and why it might be…kind of a scam.

Jemima Kirke, Girls actress and painter, has a new solo exhibition at Sargent’s Daughters on the Lower East Side that questions the norms of marriage. Kirke, who divorced in summer 2016 from Michael Mosberg, asks the question, “Why do we get married?” — particularly considering how loaded the tradition is with patriarchal symbology.

Kirke has shifted much of her focus recently from acting to painting, spending most days working at her Red Hook studio. In 2014, she showed a collection of portraits at Fouladi Projects in San Francisco that focused on the female subject with attention to imperfections and physical flaws.

Now, the RISD graduate is talking about her divorce openly and unabashedly, recently calling her wedding “pointless” in an interview with W.


Self-portrait as a Bride #1, 2017, courtesy of Sargent’s Daughters.

“One was that the only sincere, honest marriages are either green card marriages,” Kirke told W, “or big f— off performances where the bride’s doing coke in the bathroom and wearing a dress that’s, like, bigger than the whole room. Because that’s what it is—it’s a performance, and I love that.”

Kirke’s portraits — and her subjects — explored all stages of marriage, from happy newlyweds like her sister Domino, to Women’s March organizer ShiShi Rose, who posed in Kirke’s wedding dress in spite of being very outspoken about her anti-marriage views. You can see Kirke’s portraits for yourself, on view from December 13 to January 21, 2018.


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