Teddy Land

The Teddy Bear Project

Ydessa Hendeles has collected 3000 photographs that only have in common the presence of a teddy bear, the quintessential transitional object for generations of children. The amateur photographs, found mostly on eBay, are arranged in order of posture and social status and are framed and hung from floor to ceiling.

As the artist herself writes “The collection is a reflection of the values of society at the time the photographs were taken. It is notable not only for what it includes but for what is absent. Only one photograph of a child with Down Syndrome was discovered, and only one portrait of a child with a cleft palate.”

“It ends up being about more than the bears themselves,” said Emily Mello, the museum’s associate director of education said, about “how people choose to frame themselves with the bears.” Visitors, she added, can “see how one common object is an entry point for an infinite number of histories.”

Although those histories can be tragic — the teddy bear owners include future Holocaust victims and at least one suicide — others reflect only youthful joy. And while young museumgoers probably won’t recognize Elvis, Ringo or Lucille Ball in their photos, they’ll see that grown-ups posed with teddy bears, too.

“The Keeper” exhibition September 2016, The New Museum in New York

This is me on the last two photos, 1968

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