Happy Valley is the nickname for the town State College in Pennsylvania (US), the hometown of American-Irish artist Eva O’Leary (b. 1989). The place long stood as the poster-child for a perfect suburban American life. A tranquil, comfortable and blissful place where life and work revolve around the renowned Penn State University and its popular football team, The Penn State Nittany Lions. The artist left Happy Valley at the age of 18, but the place has continued to haunt her work since. At first sight, her photographs paint a crisp and colourful portrait of an American town and its inhabitants. However, the almost violent acuity of the images simultaneously evokes a deep sense of unease.
Redhead (Ami), 2014 © Eva O’Leary
In O’Leary’s Happy Valley no-one ever seems to age. The faces of its inhabitants appear in porcelain masks, suspended in eternal youthfulness. Their portraits are anonymous and archetypical, what lies behind the façade (Anger? Sadness? Repressed violence?)remains trapped in the frame. Each image presents a moment of everlasting suspension that is at once seductive and terrifying. The charade goes awry once we realize that beneath the exterior not everything is what it seems.
During Unseen Amsterdam 2018, Eva O’Leary was selected for the Outset | Unseen Exhibition Fund by an international curatorial committee. Her exhibition at Foam is the result.
This exhibition is made possible with support of the Gieskes-Strijbis Fund, the Van Bijlevelt Foundation, Kleurgamma Fine-Art Photolab and Outset Netherlands.
Foam is supported by the BankGiro Loterij, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Foam Members, City of Amsterdam, Olympus and the VandenEnde Foundation.
ABOUT EVA O'LEARY
Eva O’Leary (1989, Chicago) received a BFA from California College of the Arts in 2012,
and an MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2016. She was named a Foam Talent in 2014, and was the recipient of the Vontobel Contemporary Photography Prize in 2017. Her work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the Serpentine Gallery (London), l'Atelier Néerlandais (Paris), Christophe Guye Gallery (Zurich), Benaki Museum (Athens), and Petzel Gallery (New York). Her work has been published in Foam Magazine, ArtForum, Aperture, 1000 Words, ZEIT Magazin, The New Yorker and The New York Times. The artist lives and works between New York and Central Pennsylvania.