The element of ambiguity Kern feels on her return is evident in these photographs. There is a sense of transience experienced on both sides of the lens, a mutual searching for identity....The most telling of the photographs, however, are the 'Clothes for Death'. Likened in the catalogue to memento mori or vanitas, these are poignant and affecting images in which eight elderly women are portrayed alongside the skirts, blouses and headscarves they will only wear when dead. A record of the most intimate of wardrobes, a form of trousseau for death, these photographs are as much about life as its ending; content, vulnerable, resolute, uncertain, proud and layered with texture. June Hill, for Embroidery, July-August 2009
Review 'Female Jesus of the photographer Margareta Kern' by
Miljenko Jergovic, for Jutarnji List (The Morning Post, Zagreb, May 2008). Full article in Croatian/English.
"We commonly think of death as our final journey, a long sleep, and these metaphors are poignantly embodied in Margareta Kern's 'Clothes for Death'. In tattered suitcases or in a Camel cigarette holdall, these elderly women have packed their final outfits - a white nightgown, an embroidered bolero, a pillow, a pair of thick woollen socks. There is a moving contrast between their worn clothes and the newness of the unworn - clothes that someone else will dress them in. Following her 'Graduation Dresses,' which marked the transition from teenager to young woman, this series honours our final transition with a direct but respectful gaze. Although none of the subjects smile, their faces seem to tell how they will approach the unknown: with contentment, bitterness, dissatisfaction or uncertainty. In each, the ritual garments laid out at their sides suggest a consolation, a chance to preordain one aspect of the unknowable. The stark simplicity of their present surroundings is filled with their inevitable future. In some images, the half-shuttered windows, some netted, others bare, hint at the otherworldly just beyond the frame. Kern has brilliantly captured the alignment of the earthly and the transcendent with warm assurance and quiet resolution." Cherry Smyth, critic for Art Review, Art Monthly
“Within their homes in the very midst of life, carefully wrapped garments were drawn from high shelves and under beds, the tissue parted in most cases for the first time to any eyes – even their husband’s – let alone the camera’s cool gaze to reveal treasured garments. Amongst the wishes to look nice and to be a credit to their families are ever the practicalities and a loving consideration for the grieving. Whether frothy mass produced petticoats bought in the 1960s or the incredibly fine hand woven cotton lovingly made into a classic skirt, or even soft woollen socks, each piece has been chosen in mind of a final impression. In a country still coming to terms with conflict, death is never too far away and being prepared and dressing for it offer a last vestige of control within the unknown. Kern with a pure unstinting gaze and a creative empathy captures them in a moment of still contemplation, powerfully poignant in light of future stillness.”
Sarah Jane Downing, The Big Issue, 1 – 8 October 2007. Excerpt from the review of Clothes for Death exhibition at the ICIA Bath.
"The artist has depicted all her subjects with great dignity, allowing the images to speak for themselves, creating a real sense of these women's lives as well as their preparations for their deaths." Review by Edward Adam, for a-n magazine, Nov 2007 issue, read more.
Art Rabbit interviews Margareta Kern during her solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts, Bath.
By Beth Greenacre, 29.09.2007