The artist’s latest exhibition gives an unexpected look into family dynamics and the nature of aging.
New York City-based Aneta Bartos’ adolescence in Poland was shaped around her dad's bodybuilding career. Starting at age thirteen, she'd often travel alongside to assist him with various competitions, sometimes competing herself. Into her adulthood, she continued visiting him every summer, and in 2013, he asked her to make a few portraits of him to capture his physique "at his best" before his body began to deteriorate. While these were initially photos of him alone, they evolved into a collaborative, father-daughter series about the dynamics of their relationship.
Bartos' latest exhibition, Family Portrait 2015-2018, on view at Tommy Simoens Gallery in Antwerp through May 25th depict the artist with her retired bodybuilder dad, often in their underwear or bathing suits. Their mix of scenarios range from getting ice cream and playing on the beach to performing various behaviors of emotional comfort for the camera. In some images they stare into the lens, engaging directly with viewers, while in others, they seem to act out, recreate, or be entranced by memories from Bartos’ childhood. While the various states of undress might make some viewers uncomfortable, a deeper look reveals a tender, thoughtful window into family bonds and the fragility of life itself.
I emailed with Bartos to learn more about the series and her family dynamics.
Jon Feinstein in conversation with Aneta Bartos