A close up of make-up testers obscured by glass.

Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Tester Ten, 2021 and Tester Eleven, 2021 (details), Courtesy of the artist and DOCUMENT, Chicago

Sara Greenberger Rafferty

Forum Gallery

Forum 85

The 85th installment of Carnegie Museum of Art’s Forum series presents new works by Brooklyn-based artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty (b. 1978). Rafferty creates connections between people and engages their senses with her multimedia practice which addresses ever-changing implications for photography in the digital era.

A former department store window dresser, Rafferty draws on her skills as a merchandiser to create alluring artworks that challenge stereotypical notions of beauty and gender. Her Make-up Testers incorporate photographs of colorful palettes to address the role of cosmetics and advertising imagery in creating unrealistic societal standards. Rafferty also uses images of mannequins to underscore the disconnect between how bodies are “supposed” to look versus how they actually look. The artist also presents a new site-specific mural, THE DEAD 20TH CENTURY (What ♥ was saved), which acts as a backdrop to several works and covers the largest wall in the gallery with thumbnail images of items for sale in online art, design, and furniture auctions.

Many of the works in the exhibition were created by a unique kiln-firing process that vitrifies images printed with powdered glass. Glass is the primary material for touchscreens on phones, tablets, and other personal electronic devices, which makes it an ideal medium for Rafferty’s process-driven practice.

Other imagery in the exhibition, including magnifying glasses, telephones, and power buttons, reference different senses. Aromas emanating from cut flowers Rafferty places in several of the pieces even create an olfactory experience.

Rafferty further encourages an active relationship with her artworks by including cut flowers in several of them. These flowers, which will be changed several times during the run of the exhibition, were selected by Carnegie Museum of Art’s Youth Arts Initiative, an advisory group focused on the engagement, advancement, and support of local Pittsburgh-area teens. Their selection, made in collaboration with museum staff and Rafferty, are intended to reflect the changing seasons and evoke the passage of time.

All works in the exhibition appear courtesy of the artist and DOCUMENT, Chicago.

About the Artist

Sara Greenberger Rafferty (b. 1978 in Evanston, IL, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Photography at Pratt Institute. She received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Since 2001, Rafferty has shown widely including solo exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York; The Kitchen, New York; Eli Marsh Gallery, Amherst College, Massachusetts; and a commissioned sculpture for the Public Art Fund. Gloves Off, the first traveling survey of her work with a fully illustrated catalogue published by SUNY Press, completed a three-venue tour at the end of 2017. Rafferty’s work has also been included in the Whitney and Hammer Biennials and is in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery among many others.

About the Forum Series

Carnegie Museum of Art’s Forum series is a dynamic program of exhibitions by some of today’s most innovative contemporary artists. Initiated in 1990, the series has presented more than 80 exhibitions, including museum debuts for many artists who have gone on to achieve international renown.


Carnegie Museum of Art would like to thank Fallingwater and Pittsburgh Glass Center for their partnership in programming for this exhibition.

Exhibition Images


Significant funding for the Forum series is generously provided by the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation.

Additional support is provided by Nancy and Woody Ostrow, the Ruth Levine Memorial Fund, and The Fellows of Carnegie Museum of Art. Special production support is provided by Bullseye Glass.

Carnegie Museum of Art is supported by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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