Janicza Bravo on the Story Behind Her Rooms at This Yr’s Met Exhibition

It’s Bravo’s sprawling constellation of references—in addition to her multi-disciplinary background—that she delivered to the desk when devising the idea for her rooms on the Met. “I think that if you were to break down the ingredients, [directing and curating] might feel like different skill sets, but it also doesn’t feel like I’m veering away from anything. It feels like another step, I’d say,” she says. “For me, it was about boiling it down to a single frame, and thinking about it as a diorama or a tableau, even though there are no people in it.” Bravo’s intuition for weaving tales from the unlikeliest of threads—fairly actually within the case of Zola, which was born from a viral Twitter story—feels palpable within the last model of her rooms. “Maybe there isn’t a beginning, middle, and end, per se, and maybe the women don’t have names, but I have a sense of the events, I have a sense of the characters, I have a sense of how they spend their days.”

When it got here to her different room, the Gothic Revival Library, Bravo’s references had one unifying issue—an curiosity within the internal lives of girls. It’s a spirit meant as one thing of a tribute to Elizabeth Hawes, the pioneering designer and political activist whose work Bravo is celebrating. “I love Elizabeth Hawes’s writing, I love her work, and she was so pioneering, so it’s sort of heartbreaking to me that we don’t know her name,” she says. “I was also thinking about myself as a person who doesn’t have children, and what’s left after you go. Will you be remembered? I guess if you boil it down, the word I’m thinking about is legacy, even if that doesn’t feel quite juicy enough. It’s really about the idea of the memory of you only existing in the stories that others tell, and once those people die off, what is left of you?”

Elizabeth Hawes in 1942. Photo: Getty Images

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