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Sharon Lockhart: an artist who explores the lives of girls labeled difficult


For the New York Times, Hilarie M. Sheets writes a profile on Sharon Lockhart. The Angeleno artist often travels for extended periods of time to cities outside her home in California, often rural areas such as Pine Flat, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where she makes film works about the everyday life of citizens. Her latest project takes her to Poland and tracks the life of a young girl living in a home for troubled youth named Milena. Read Sheets in partial below, or in full via New York Times.

On a 2009 visit to Lodz, Poland, to gather ideas for a film, Sharon Lockhart was drawn into a gritty urban courtyard by the sound of children playing. That was where she first saw a 9-year-old girl named Milena Slowinska.

“You should have seen her, up on the roof, ruling the court,” said Ms. Lockhart, a Los Angeles filmmaker and photographer known for her intimate studies of overlooked communities, often centered on childhood. “She’s a very powerful girl.”

Inspired by the inventiveness of the children’s unsupervised play, in which buildings became jungle gyms, Ms. Lockhart spent three months shooting their street games for a short film called “Podworka” (“courtyard” in Polish) that looked spontaneous but was actually staged.

Since then, Ms. Lockhart has returned to Poland more than 15 times to see Milena, now 16, who has come to assume a prominent role in the artist’s life and work. Ms. Lockhart’s friendship with the teenager has extended to her peers at the Youth Center for Socio-Therapy in Rudzienko, a home for troubled girls where Milena lived for several years. In a new 40-minute film, “Rudzienko,” currently at the Arts Club of Chicago, Ms. Lockhart explores the emotions and self-expression of girls labeled difficult or unmanageable.

“I pay attention to children,” said Ms. Lockhart, who is 51, but whose open manner seems nearly as youthful as her subjects’. In interviews, the teenagers said they were shocked to learn that she was older than 30.

*Image: The artist Sharon Lockhart. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times