Carolyn Drake’s “Knit Club”
              Ben Eastham
              To walk into Yancey Richardson’s Chelsea gallery is to enter a secret society of women. These photographic portraits of women alone, with their children, and in groups—their faces often hidden behind objects ranging from bunches of flowers to a plaster cast death mask—are freighted with esoteric symbols. A snake twists around a tree as if it were Asclepius’s staff before transforming into dangling feet; a woman holds an eerie nineteenth-century painting of a small girl in front of her like a screen. A slim figure in a pink dress wearing the rubber mask of an eagle’s head completes the impression of having stumbled into a feminine cult, the meaning and membership of which must remain obscure to the uninitiated. That the title of the exhibition suggests this is a “knit club” does not diminish the mystery: even fleeting acquaintance with the literature of the Southern Renaissance is enough to forewarn the viewer that the weirdest histories are concealed behind the picket fences of polite society. And we are unmistakeably in the American South of the popular imaginary: complementing the air of collapsed grandeur connoted by peeling colonial-era wallpapers and hardwood dressing tables are signifiers as direct as a Victorian Gothic dollhouse …
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