Simone de Beauvoir declared: “he is the Subject, he is the Absolute—she is the Other,” a position the woman has been placed in and has struggled against for as long as there is Western history. The exhibition and artists within it argue that she does not have to remain on the border of other-hood, but can confidently place herself in center stage and take back the spotlight.
One of the many issues facing the contemporary female artist is how, unknowingly, she may not present the viewer with a translatable representation of how she externalizes instances of internal oppression from society, and from herself. Each of the artists in this exhibition present the viewer with reactions to feminist phenomenologists and their investigation of the living body as a site of selfhood that both reflects cultural norms and can provide a site of resistance to them. (Feminist Perspectives on the Self: First published Mon. Jun 28, 1999; substantive revision Wed Feb 19, 2020).
He is Not the Subject, Not the Absolute – She is the Everything depict portraits of women engaging—or not—with the viewer. The very choice of engagement, under the control of the female artist, is in itself taking a stance and controlling the gaze of the viewer, thus controlling the definition the viewer will affix to the female. Riso Chan presents her women looking at or away from the viewer, into the distance, but often there is some sort of ‘masking’ on the skin, suggesting that there is more to the subject than skin tone—instead there is a blossoming of the internal that still needs to be protected. In her works, Anya Anti places women in scenarios where she becomes part of the landscape, and in so doing, Anti’s subjects are no longer regaled to the sidelines, but are in fact integral elements of life as a less gender-obvious role: women are light, knowledge. Fares Micue harmoniously combines both in her approach, her vibrant self-portraits displaying the inherent adaptability of women across space and time. Violeta Caldrés offers snippets of ‘playful’ women in her mixed media works, often reminiscent of Gaugin and the circular quality of time distinct to worlds of Borges; these works argue that there is a world supremely feminine, in direct contrast to stagnant linear direction of the patriarchy. Silvia Yapur explores society’s notions of what is beautiful and creates works reinterpreting women reminiscent, but very distant of the women of Toulouse-Lautrec. Julie de Waroquier, through her visual compositions, plays on the collective unconscious to demonstrate how the external and the internal can meet in both a comforting or disturbing manner. Also exploring the internal, Julia Silvester creates works both symbolic and intriguing with the inclusion of birds, which have historically evoked ‘The Caged Bird Syndrome,’ where the symbol of a woman trapped transforms her into an object for encaging and ornamentation. Playing with language through collage, Silvana Soriano presents a catalog of expressions played out in her pieces, often drawing attention to negative stereotypes and expectations towards women. Inserting an element of pop into the exhibition, Giulia Caruso’s mixed media works present certain social expectation and, on occasion, the results of society’s effect on the woman where they become modern versions of The Stepford Wife. Italian artists Elena Monzo and Giulia Ronchetti also incorporate a mixture of mediums to investigate the ways in which psychology and feminism manifest through symbols and archetypes famously associated with the feminine experience.
All of the artists in the exhibition explore the woman, her place, and her ability to adapt to the society in which she finds herself. Some women hide within, some rebel outright, some find ways to play within the patriarchal field, yet all strongly announce to the viewer that they, and their works, will not remain in the plane of Otherness—they will force their way into the center of the preverbal stage, and take the light.
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