Persona December, 28th 2018 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 194 - Henriette van Gasteren


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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 194 – Henriette van Gasteren
On my visit to Lilith / Henriëtte van Gasteren, I received a welcome with coffee and homemade cake. I have not eaten such a perfect cake for a long time. On the table is a stack of her photo books, including ‘A house is not a home’, ‘Skinny Dipping’, ‘About whores and madonnas’ – with Lilith’s photos and also sonnets by Paul Sterk – and ‘Risja, a story by Lilith’.
Lilith / Henriëtte (born Sevenum 1964) makes photographs of herself in all possible positions and situations. Her fantasy seems limitless. She uses her body for one hundred percent. In this way she makes contact with the viewers of her photographs. It is surrealistic and I am not surprised when she says that she finds recognition in the work of, among others, Salvador Dali and Picasso.

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Tell stories with your face
“My theme is mankind, especially the woman, because I am a woman. Not one woman but all women. I show my feminine side, but also my male side. My photos originate from within me. If you look at all my self-portraits, you will see my diary, my life story. “

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Initially she wrote a blog in 2005 with culinary-erotic stories, but when someone gave her a second-hand webcam, she made pictures of herself to use as illustrations for her stories.
“I found out that I could tell stories with my face. Moreover, I had much more to report than purely culinary eroticism. Why should I limit myself? “
Her story ‘Calf roast on tagliatelle with a soft sauce of white port and cheese’ was published in the collection of the Enigmatic Rose 2005, a publication of a prose and poetry competition by the Literary Café Venray region.

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In 2006 she bought a Nikon with remote control and discovered that from then on she could make anything she wanted. She placed these self-portraits on pbase (photography website on the internet).
“I made a series of photos ‘Tubbing’ with mirrors in a hotel. That had the effect of a bomb going off without me noticing, because I did not know how pbase worked. “
She has had fans worldwide since 2005. From New York and Dresden to Paris, from Bruges and Warsaw to Barcelona. There were exhibitions in many galleries and various museums, including CODA museum (Apeldoorn), museum van Bommel van Dam (Venlo), Limburgs Museum (Venlo), municipal museum Jacob van Horne (Weert). She has participated in large and small art festivals worldwide, such as in New York (Dumbo, Brooklyn) and Dresden (Ostrale, Center for Contemporary Art).

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“In 2013, Ostrale asked my permission to let the ears of my self-portrait ‘Bunny in the tub’ move, so that this picture could be seen on television for three months with a motto: ‘Ostral moves’.” See:
For many years, Lilith was her stage name. Lilith appears in all religions as Adam’s first wife, the primeval woman. She is made of the same material as Adam was made of, while Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs.
“I did not consciously choose that name, but intuitively, because I thought it was time for a new name. I started looking for what Lilith stands for later. She is equivalent to the man (Eva, on the other hand, submissive). The name also stands for the intuitive and sensual, counterpart of the male.” Nowadays she uses her civil name again: Henriëtte van Gasteren.
“Lilith represented my strong side, but now Henriëtte has become equally strong.”

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Mr. Pastor (meneer Pastoor)
As a key work she calls the self portrait ‘Priest’.
“When I once exhibited in the town hall of Beek, Pastor (pastoor) criticized my work in the parish magazine, without ever having seen it! He based his opinion solely on the poster that hung outside, on which I was seen as ‘Prodigal daughter’ together with my father. I am a person of the dialogue, so I invited Pastor to look at my exhibition together. We first walked past my series of photos that I had made of Risja. A traveling exhibition about a young woman with Lyme disease. At least, in Germany she was a lymphatic patient, but in the Netherlands the opinion about the nature of her illness was divided. Then we went to my self-portraits on the first floor. The municipal officials all passed ‘inconspicuously’ when Pastor and I talked about my photos for one and a half hours. I noticed that understanding arose and I blew out recklessly a proposal to the pastor whether we would make a self-portrait together (while I had never worked with others so far, except occasionally with my father and my son). He asked why I wanted that. I replied that I wanted to show people that two worlds of difference could create something beautiful thanks to the dialogue.

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He was allowed to provide an idea for a picture that we could make. He thought about this for some time and finally presented the scene of Mary Magdalene and Jesus, on which she dries Jesus’ feet with her long hair. I thought that was pretty stereotyped. With that you do not encourage people to think. In his eyes I was the ‘fallen woman’. That is why I thought we should turn the picture around. So it became Mr. Pastor who washes my feet, in his church, under the oil painting from the 17th century with the image of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. This self-portrait, together with Pastor, was the start of an entirely new series of ‘Bit player’ in which I portray acquaintances, friends and family in their own (work) environment together with me. I usually fulfill the supporting role (= bit player), for example in the photo ‘Baker’ where I am dough. Or on ‘Butcher’ where I hang over the shoulder of the butcher as a piece of beef cattle. As always I do everything myself: light, make-up, camera work, photo editing and so on. Moreover, in this series I am also responsible for the direction of the other person (s), whereas I do not see what we do, because I stand with them in front of and not behind the camera. I place my camera on a tripod and I operate it with a remote control. “

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She has mastered the technique herself.
“Because I have not followed photography training I feel completely free. For example, I do not place the lamps in a fixed position. I do everything by looking closely at what is arising. I embrace it. For me it’s about what a photo brings about, not so much about technical perfection. “
In 2017 she won the audience award at the AvroTros competition ‘Krabbé in search of Picasso’. Her self-portrait ‘From blue to white’, inspired by ‘De Strijkster’ (the ironer) from the blue period of Picasso also belonged to the jury-top-three. Salient detail: In 2014 she won the jury prize and the public award at the AvroTros competition ‘Het zelfportret’ (the self-portrait) with two different photos.
“I have let the other AvroTros competitions pass so far,” she laughs. “I do not like competitions. They are always subjective, whatever way you look at it. But if I win this is good on my resume and I can use this for PR. I rarely or never consider the result as a value judgment. I know that my work is distinctive and very good. “

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In addition to photographs she also makes video clips, for example for the band ‘Het Goede Doel’. See ‘Anna’,
She also made a video clip for her mid-career exhibition at CODA museum in Apeldoorn in 2017 and sang herself. See ‘Independent Mind’,
Henriëtte / Lilith, who worked as a management secretary in Limburg for seventeen years before she became a photographer, follows her heart.
“It was also nice to be a management secretary and I still benefit from it. I type fast, manage a few languages. Because apart from being an artist I am also an entrepreneur, bookkeeper, copywriter, translator, secretary. However, I am particularly pleased that at this moment in my life I can follow my heart at what I do. “

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No #metoo
Finally, Henriette: “I consider myself a researcher. I try to make things that seem obvious, but often ain’t, negotiable. I am looking for the good in the people. What I find very strongly about my work is that it can never be #metoo. I do everything myself. The rare times that I worked in good faith with a photographer and a director turned out to be bad experiences. No polonaise on my body. Hands off!”
“I photograph myself – nobody tells me what to do – I make self portraits. “
1) Domestic Goddess: The magic pan, 2) Tubbing, 3) Bunny in the tub, 4) The prodigal daughter, 5) Bit player: Priest, 6) Bit player: Baker, 7) Bit player: Butcher, 8) From blue to white, (winner AvroTros contest: Krabbé in search of Picasso), 9) Mystifier (winner AvroTros contest: the self-portrait), 10) Domestic Goddess: Thanks Mr Milkman

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