Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Dana Fritz

Date of this Version


Document Type



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master in Fine Arts, Major: Art, Under the Supervision of Professor Dana Fritz, Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2017.

Copyright (c) 2017 Rana Young


My complex relationship with photographs began when I was young. I remember tearing images out of publications and bringing them to my dad prepared with questions. Where I grew up, normative values defined by anatomy at birth impacted an individual’s gender perception and performance. Raised by a single father, I experienced a non-traditional family structure in my home. Seeing photographs portraying the “wholeness” of family contradicted my reality. Those psychological impressions provoked my curiosity and propelled me to solve the mystery of what existed beyond the scene depicted.

In retrospect, my search for missing context stems from an interest in narrative and how the single frame of a photograph begs questions rather than provides answers. As I conceive my photographs I am in a state of reverie. In my work, I use the figure as a conduit to move between past and future. My aesthetic interpretations of intimacy, privacy and identity mirror a metaphorical cycle of introspection. Subtle clues within the photograph may evoke an individual’s aversions or desires. I am interested in this negotiation, and through my work, investigate foundations of gender expression.

My photographs in The Rug’s Topography employ themes of tension, voyeurism and transition to represent interpretation of self. I construct images that balance organic intimacy and cinematic theatricality by implementing symbolism, color theory, and seductive lighting. Using a directorial approach and a single subject allows me to create an environment that transforms viewer into voyeur. The singular vantage point and lack of reciprocal gaze invites one to silently observe an unfolding narrative. However, the personal account is never fully described and the viewer must bring their own history, biases, and prejudices to interpret the imagery. Transition within this work is highlighted through the notions of gender and time. Though the viewer is privy to feminine interventions placed upon the male figure, faint physical changes sequentially manifest in the subject. Rigid musculature and posture is overcome by delicate and poetic gestures; the manicuring of body also becomes a form of sublimation. The ambient photographs, which signify fleeting moments, mark points of personal evolution. Emphasis is placed on the threshold between public and private, as well as the implied or literal mirror embodying introspection. Life is comprised of moments navigating both the literal and psychological space; my intention is to render that dichotomy.

Advisor: Dana Fritz