In The Michelle duBois Project, Zoe Crosher has assembled a variety of touristic and posed images that play in the space between fantasy and documentary. The photographs are drawn from an obsessively assembled collection of self-portraits by Michelle duBois, one of many aliases of an all-American girl from Oklahoma and occasional escort. Crosher has rephotographed, scanned, enlarged, altered, and re-edited duBois’s pictures from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
DuBois photographed herself in a variety of guises and emulated classic tropes of femininity for the camera. In these images—some taken by friends and clients, some by strangers, others by professional studio portraitists—duBois presents herself alternately as the 1930s actress and sex symbol Mae West; a sexy nurse in a starched white uniform; and a femme fatale mysteriously silhouetted in a doorway. In this display created for MoMA, Crosher has arranged the works according to the direction of duBois’s gaze (sometimes flipping them, so that prints from the same negative are mirrored). The artist presents duBois alternately gazing at herself, turning away from the camera, and seeming to gaze at this exhibition, drawing attention to the acts of photographing and looking. Throughout The Michelle duBois Project, Crosher has manipulated the images to emphasize the archive’s physicality. The Mae Wested pictures have been crumpled, rephotographed, and printed on metallic paper, resulting in shimmering surfaces that evoke the silver screen. The fading in the multipart work The Other Disappeared Nurse suggests the vanishing of identity but also of analog photography in the digital age. With this body of work, Crosher questions the possibilities of self-portraiture and representation, pointing to the impossibility of knowing oneself, even through an endless accumulation of images.
Zoe Crosher was born in 1975 in Santa Rosa, California. She received a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1997 and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in 2001. Crosher lives and works in Los Angeles.