The photograph depicts Siobhan Lidell (* 1965), with whom Nan Goldin (* 1953) was in a romantic relationship for several years. With the title “Siobhan in my mirror”, the artist reveals something of herself: the image gives us a glimpse into her bedroom, a deeply private space. In the mirror, we see an image of a feminine-presenting nude body: a clue as to the artist’s sexual desires? Is Goldin ironically reclaiming the male sexualised gaze at female-presenting bodies? We also see a bed in the background, various make-up products in the foreground – and Siobhan in the middle. Thus, the photograph also speaks to the intimate relationship between the two women.
Siobhan appears twice in the image: On the left, she evades Goldin’s camera as a blurry background figure. The photographer has focused her lens on the mirror image, in which Siobhan is scrutinising herself with intense concentration. The photographic subject is simultaneously observer and observed. With this, Goldin subverts conventional hierarchies of gaze. In the mirror, we see Siobhan as she sees herself. Her short dark hair and her classic men’s suit – markers of stereotypical masculinity – stand in sharp contrast to the feminine-presenting torso taped to the mirror: a naked body at the mercy of the viewer’s gaze.
Nan Goldin spent four years living in Berlin, where she became part of the lively queer subcultural scene of drag artists, trans people, gay men and lesbians. She lived with the protagonists of her photos and took their portraits from non-voyeuristic vantage points, often in the aesthetics of a snapshot. In the process, she frequently interrogated notions of binary genders and fixed sexual identities. In 2001, she told an interviewer: “At a party last night, when someone asked me if I was a lesbian, I answered that I’m always a real lesbian when I’m sleeping with women, and bisexual when I’m also with men.
Further works from the project
Untitled (Self-Portrait with Salomé), 1977
Dixie Marine, 1995
Self as Gustaf Gründgens, 1974
Meeting (Parade of the Zeros), 1933–1935
Til Brugman´s Portrait , 1927
Gruppe IX, 1922
Untitled (Self-Portrait), 1952
Hairy Underarm, 1971