JULIANA BEASLEY: “Last Stop – Rockaway Park”

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me…

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be…

(Doris Day – Que Sera Sera, 1956)

When you were a little child, what did you want to be when you grew up? In your dreams… were you a strong fireman, a brilliant doctor, a brave rodeo star or a beautiful princess? Were you the President of the United States or were you the Magnificent Queen of Pony Land? Did you dream big or dream little… where did you want to go, what did you want to see, what did you hope to become? Ah, what a wonderful world… what a joy to have dreams… the birds are singing, dreams riding on clouds… the magic of hope, the promise of love.


What does it feel like to be unloved? How does it feel to be the ugly duckling or be told that you are worthless, to be invisible to others… to be kicked in your face or unwanted by most? Where do you go to escape a lack of  love, and parental neglect… how do you escape neglect if you are the neglecter of your self? What is happiness and are some born with a destiny to fail? What if your mind compels you to do what you should not… to do what you don’t want to do… what do you do? To be trapped, to be addicted, to throw away hope, to fall apart from the inside out… what are the paths that lead to this place? What are the colors of pain… what are the textures of vice? And if hope and hope never comes, hope has abandoned you like the plague… you are the plagueyou have no hope.

What if this is what you believed… but what if your mind has lied to you?

Like Richard Billingham’s, Ray’s a Laugh, Last Stop: Rockaway Park from Juliana Beasley is such a place – or is it? We can see this… what this looks like to break down, to be invisible, we can see what it must be like to be seen as nothing… where it happens, what it feels like, right? It is tragic, it is painful… yet, it is beautiful to look at – amazing to look at – and what of happiness, is it here at all? I have asked this before… it plagues me… how can beauty exist for us to gaze upon if the subject matter seems to be a hopeless pit, if the subject matter is caught up in the vice grip of human addiction-the sticky spider’s web of mental illness-an unwanted stepchild of a community that is filled with human short circuits and the grueling, numb pain of no love, of being unwanted. Yes, beauty can exist in the midst of this pit and it does – we see it, we can’t deny it. This is art and we must come to grips that beauty can appear even in the midst of life’s brutality. Epic and harsh, intimate and poetic… a voyeuristic-Sunset Blvd-“Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close up”-human-carnival-boardwalk-circus-sensation… brutal and searing, yet caring and filled with love – filled with friendship and humanity. Yes, it is possible to combine all of these conflicting elements for we are all the same at the core, one in humanity I think, and happiness can still exist here in some form. It must.

This is a poem about delusion, fantasy, addiction, human destruction and premature death. It is about hopelessness and human tragedy… but, it is about life and human dignity within the midst of this pain and smiles that can still be there, on the faces… if only for brief moments. It is special… this work… something to behold and something that, years from now, should leave a visible mark on this mundane, cookie-cutter, one-giant-boring-conceptual-blur of a current contemporary photographic landscape. You have to look very hard for diamonds when sifting through rocks… but diamonds are always there.


Doug Rickard


(Text @ Doug Rickard, Images @ Juliana Beasley)

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