Photography and Text by Rachel Grand, Copyright 2021
Eating the Forbidden Fruit
In this composite portrait, I play with the notions of the abject and how it can play with the traditions and experience of Bryn Mawr College. I create a narrative that dramatizes the transformation of going to a women’s college. Many love it here, many can’t wait to graduate, but most will agree that this place is special. Living and learning among these somber, stone castle-like buildings reminds its students of its identity.
In each student’s freshman year, they are given a lantern during the ceremony that signifies the passing of wisdom. In my portrait, the figure with the donkey head acts as the physical embodiment of a mystical bearer of knowledge, shining the light of the iconic Bryn Mawr lantern and giving the forbidden fruit, like that of the tree of life, to its new student. The construction of other figures in the frame is inspired by princess and purity culture. The strappy white dress, instead of signifying sexual virginity, signifies informational virginity. She willingly approaches the donkey figure because she wants to know more.
Once she eats the forbidden fruit, and begins to gain knowledge herself, she maintains her corporeal beauty, but becomes one of the abject with the head of a frog. She lies like a corpse, having now understood the world, and her place in it. With her women’s college education, she is too smart to be attractive, as shown by her frog head. She mourns herself because she understands that society will never truly let her rise to her full potential. Her dress remains unchanged as a reminder of the implications of her physicality as a woman, despite her animal head.
As a second semester senior, thinking about what I have learned here, and where I will go next, this series plays with those anxieties.
About The Author: Rachel Grand is a senior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College majoring in Fine Arts and History. Class of 2021.