The Drawers - Judith Page   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Results of the headhunt

The title 'Finalists' suggests a group near the end of a competitive process that will eventually reveal who are at the top of the list - the real prize winners. Their faces are adolescent, a period when insecurity reigns as the body plummets into the changes brought on by unaccustomed adult physiques. The dress and demeanor of adulthood is adopted while the small pleasures of childhood are quashed in order to prepare for assimilation into the adult world of getting and winning. It is a time when competition, with the attendant awareness of measures of worthiness, takes over from the self consumed assurance of childhood needs.

These finalists were competing to be Mouseketeers. Walt Disney searched the public schools of America to find them, insisting that the Mousketeers be 'regular kids' and not actors. With a best-foot-forward look on their face, these kids locked horns in order to see who would score the highest in contests of talent, articulation and charm so that they might have the honor of wearing mouse ears, appearing on television and becoming the admired idols of their peers. What an American dream! What a measure of value! What an honor, to don vermin ears and profess allegiance with a rousing military chorus to a cartoon mouse.

Judith Page translates sixties phenomena into images of beauty and beastliness. Her renditions of proud competitors hoping to please invoke a nostalgic examination of American myth making. The glamorization of childhood fixations is paired with the culturally driven desire to deconstruct and make sense of things. When Page places a ghostly pale, pepto-bismol glaze over the faces of the American hopefuls of yesteryear, she clarifies the differences between the expectations of a nation programmed to believe in success and one that has had to accept the embarrassments of not making it to the last round untainted. The banner that was to be held 'high, high, high, high' is fluttering limply. The stuffed toy pride is sticky and if these are the finalists, the losers might be in pretty poor shape.

The adolescent pride of the Mouseketeer contestants reflected the comparative innocence of the sixties. These faces invoke compassion and pity rather than contumely. However, to look into the eyes of dreams and see the gawky reflection of an ironic present glazing the pupil is an awkward revelation.

Copyright 2006,  Headbones Gallery, The Drawers