At the other end of the rabbit hole, among the ferns of the New Zealand countryside, there sat a little girl by the name of Frances. She really, really wanted to see the scurrying pink eyed rabbit come out of that little patch of darkness. She imagined herself engaged in a formidable argument with an ill-tempered caterpillar and she wished for just a little sip from Mock Turtle’s tureen brimming with beautiful soup. She simply needed or better yet, she demanded, something fantastically absurd to happen. Many times before, she had heard fabulous tales in which princesses slept inside crystal coffins undisturbed for centuries, their beauty preserved by inexplicable magic. She had read accounts about wooden boys turned real by the power of true love. She’d listened to myths of tiny fairies fluttering about and little winter pixies huddling inside a magpie’s nest. She was utterly convinced that all these creatures were out there in the forest, teasingly glancing at her without allowing themselves to be seen. Yet Frances always felt truly at home in this land of make-believe among her whimsical companions. This is how Frances Melhop grew up to be a story teller. Her affinity for fairy tales only became a stronger source of inspiration as time went on and, quite naturally, women became the focal point of her visual tales. Her photographs now incorporate every possible aspect of the archetypal female: the damsel in distress, the marionette craving for autonomy, the persecuted heroine and the youngster untainted by malice or deceit. Frances’ characters are never regarded as mere objects of tantalizing beauty, but rather as vehicles through which the story is told in successive vignettes. Melhop despises the way in which women have come to be portrayed in fashion and advertising. Often times they are nothing more than the unwilling recipients of a vulgar and distasteful set of attributes and expectations. In sharp contrast, her work breaks away from this trend to render females in a much more thoughtful, considerate and elegant manner. Marionette is an ideal illustration of how, through such a succinct and forthright image, Frances Melhop is able to imply the many layers of meaning within the tale. Here, the puppet and the master are one and the same. The duality of their roles develops into a symbiotic relationship between them. It is a complex bond that simultaneously grants them both freedom and confinement. In appearance, the human is simply in command of the toy. Paradoxically, the puppeteer enacts her dreams through the actions of the marionette, so that the puppet turns into an agent of freedom despite her attachments. The issue of ethical behavior and personal boundaries is candidly addressed in this photograph. What remains unequivocal is that Frances Melhop is the one gently holding the strings behind all her images. Her work is distinctively her own. In recreating these fairy tales she whispers secrets, unveils beauty, washes away bias and connects us all with the acorn of truth that sleeps within our collective consciousness. Her lens is the rabbit hole of our childhood that holds the promise of a magical, kinder world.
press release written by Christina Clarimon USA Arthaus66 gallery october 2009