The 7 Ages of Woman: A Fractured Fable of Femininity and Motherhood

The Seven Ages of Woman
A portfolio by Rachel Feinstein

Rachel Feinstein loves fairy tales. Her thesis at Columbia was on Bruno Bettelheim and a sinister early version of “Sleeping Beauty.” Years later, motherhood inspired the artist to hunt for her favorite editions of “Thumbelina” to read to her kids. On eBay she dug up the trippy, Technicolor Shiba Productions versions of the stories. Her children weren’t interested, but she was inspired by the hyperreal color plates. For the project, we paired her with author Michael Cunningham, whose latest book, a collection of rewritten fairy tales called Wild Swan and Other Stories, will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux this fall. Together they imagined the “seven ages of woman,” a story based on a 16th-century painting by Hans Baldung, as a dark and beautiful exploration of femininity and motherhood. Feinstein illustrated Cunningham’s story by staging scenes in a studio and then cutting and layering the resulting images into bas-relief dioramas. (The project is part of Feinstein's Performa Commission, which she continues to expand with the Performa team.)

Credits Featuring Karen Elson Ava Arrasate Sadie Sink Helen Marden Flora Currin India Menuez Tani Goldenberg Rachel Feinstein Grace Coddington Photographs by Bobby Doherty Styling by Rebecca Ramsey Set design by Theresa Rivera
for Mary Howard Studio
Hair by Edward Tricomi
for Warren-Tricomi Salon
Makeup by Alice Lane
at the Wall Group

*This article appears in the August 10, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.