Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto
February 24, 2018 1-4

Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, Bermuda
March 2, 2018


About The Project

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. —E. E. Cummings

On an island over 1,500 kilometres from the closest landfall, Bermuda’s teenagers come of age as all teenagers do, but with a difference. Here on “The Rock,” they are heir to a uniquely split personality: on the one hand, they are intensely tied to everything local, intimate, and secure—the stuff of their home; on the other, they are intensely drawn to the exotic lure of anywhere-but-here—the stuff of their dreams.

Coming of Age in Wonderland explores Bermuda schools, clubs, army recruit camps, fast food joints, sports fields, and parishes, and serves up portraits of young people displaying themselves in all their contradictory glory—awkward and brave, shy and bold—against a seemingly idyllic backdrop. But even in paradise, adolescence is complicated and fraught. Teenagers who are simultaneously wedded to the tyranny of cool and demand to be regarded as uniquely so also rebel against it, trying to disappear into the sameness of belonging. On an island that confines and sustains them, they present themselves with eloquent uncertainty as indelible icons coming of age in Wonderland.





For this is action, this not being sure, this careless
Preparing, sowing the seeds crooked in the furrow,
Making ready to forget, and always coming back
To the mooring of starting out, that day so long ago.

—John Ashbery, from “Soonest Mended,” in
Double Dream of Spring (1970)



Friedman’s Bermudian portraits draw on two distinct traditions within representation of the young: the convention of childhood as everlasting, to be celebrated and preserved as an ideal condition of freedom and discovery; and the artistic imagining of youth as a state of incipience and emergence, an embryonic passage from innocence to experience. Against their Edenic surroundings, her young subjects seem perpetually young, still in a fledgling phase, incandescent and pure, but growing wise, passing into evident maturity and self-possession. Simultaneously hesitant and confident, with both reserve and bravado, these teenagers seem at once real, the sum of their experience, but also symbolic, a series of quiet mysteries presented for our interpretation.

—Paul Roth 2017



…sometimes i don’t remember being a teenager in Bermuda. my experience in the teens only comes back in flashes of totems, items, and icons that were reappearing fixtures stretching from 11 to 19. ketchup chips and Red Devil soda was my teenage. chicken and beef pies from the Pie Shoppe or Crow Lane Bakery were my teenage. malasadas in the morning before the bus was my teenage. the last few bars of “Ether” when Nas (pun intended) ethered Jay-Z was my teenage. the debate of “which was better?” the champagne, black, or silver Scoopy, was my teenage. things on the precipice of memory; all opposition and balance. equal parts self assurance and smug unawareness. broken between discovery and “things already mastered.” i knew everything and nothing, all at once

—Yesha Townsend 2017


About Debra Friedman

Debra Friedman is an established and internationally exhibited photographer and educator living in Toronto, Canada. She has a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and an MFA from the Chicago Art Institute. She is the recipient of numerous visual arts awards from the Polaroid Corporation, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council and has enjoyed several artist’s residencies, notably at the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap, Georgia, and at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Robert, and has three adult sons: Nathan, Joseph, and Eli.