My academic interests include the study of the female physical body and its varying interpretations across cultures and eras. The current show in the Silber Gallery, “Femme,” showcases artists’ own perspectives of the feminine form. I was fortunate enough to attend the gallery opening on Feb. 6, to hear the artists (all females) and talk about their pieces over sangria and cheese.
The exhibit features varying media, from videos, photography, painting, and live performance. Many of the artists are MFA students, and some found artwork later in life. Despite all of their different backgrounds, there seems to be a connecting thread throughout the work: that even in 2014, women still receive criticism for using their bodies in any way, whether it’s in artwork, dance, or the like.
Sandylee Triolo explores this idea. Her video installation, entitled W.F.E.M., according to Triolo, is the “exploration of the manipulation of women in advertising … [that] turned into an autobiography.” The video is of loosely fragmented advertising clips throughout the years, highlighting stereotypical female roles, such as the housewife. Another one of the artists working with video is Allana Clark, an MFA student at MICA of Caribbean descent, whose “Sugar and Weaving” puece uses the body as a source of manipulation. She explained that her work showcases “cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an imposed hierarchy.”
One of the highlights of “Femme” is Maggie Schneider’s live performance piece entitled “Narcissus. Self. Portrait.” Schneider stands in front of a mirror, in a dress and heels, continually glancing at her body, moving around, smoothing her clothes – the typical things we, as women, do everyday in the mirror. And to do this for two hours at a time – that is something for which Schneider should be applauded. During the opening, curator Laura Amussen commented, “How often do we look in the mirror … how often do we love what we see?” It’s a question to be pondered, and I would add, how long can we possibly look in the mirror? I avoid mirrors like the plague, often even turning my back to brush my teeth. Watching Schneider gaze intently at her own reflection forces the viewer to examine the female gaze in a different way.
Finally, the last artist I would like to highlight is Alana Beall. Her photographs of twelve young girls, who she describes as having “doll-like features,” explore various powerful women of history, such as Mary Tudor. The young models are caked in makeup and extravagant costumes, looking years older than they are with a beauty pageant feel. By using young girls, Beall studies how early females are taught social constructs of beauty. The colors in her photographs are stunning and really reflect the extremes of physical femininity.
“Femme” runs in the Siber through Mar. 9. The gallery hours are 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays. Maggie Schneider will perform Narcissus. Self. Portrait. today (Feb. 21), Mar. 1, and Mar. 7 from 2-4 p.m.