The Female Gaze: Women Looking at Men
April 16 to May 30, 1998 at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

from ICA News, Winter 1998

Throughout the ages men have painted, sculpted, photographed, and otherwise represented as religious personae, mothers, workers, reclining nudes, vanitas and pin-up beauties. Taking one small step to balance the scales, the ICA partnered with the South Bay Chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art in hosting a juried exhibition entitled " The Female Gaze: Women Looking at Men."

Man Looking at Art II, by Brigitte Carnochan
gelatin silver print

Artists of the SBC/WCA were invited to present their takes on the depiction of men: the good, the bad, the ugly, and anything in between. Works submitted for consideration were juried and the exhibition selected by Susan Hillhouse, Curator of Art at the Triton Museum of Art, and JoAnne Northrup, Curator at the DeSaisset Museum at Santa Clara University.

Female Gaze artists: Anne-Marie Bliss, Willa Briggs, Francy Caprino, Brigitte Carnochan, Nancy Crowley, Cosette Dudley, Kathryn Dunlevie, Ruth Eckland, Beth Yarnelle Edwards, Linda Fillhardt, Beth Grossman, Sandra Khoury, Judith Marshall, Sarah Ratche, Saelon Renkes, Pat Sherwood, Nancy Tector, Johanna Tesauro, Deborah Trilling, Gail Williams, Alayne Yellum, Bonnie Zimmerman.

Joshua, by Johanna Tesauro
gelatin silver print

For some of the artists, the male figure became a study of form, the body in motion or at rest. The photographs of Johanna Tesauro capture her subjects in candid, intimate poses, while those of Saelon Renkes present the male torso in staged, sculpture-like presentations, an homage to the figure. Nancy Crowley gives us a study of form and exaggerated reflections of color in her lively rendering of a male model. Brigitte Carnochan's contrast of youth and age are revealing in her photographs of male nude models as they themselves look at the art for which they are posing. The contrast of ages is also expressionistically rendered in the works of Willa Briggs.

BrthrIt, by Sarah Ratchye
oil on canvas, 1998

Form is presented as what can be termed "maleness" in the works of artists such as Sarah Ratchye and installation artist Ruth Eckland. Ratchye's "PEnis Wallpaper" (sic) and accompanying "PEnis Tablemat and Napkin" (sic) present the image of male genitalia as design. One is reminded of ancient Greek ornamentation in which the human form is rendered in repetition, meander-like in its decorative style. For Ruth Eckland the image of male genitalia becomes a response to the frequent focus of male artists unpon the female breast. Erotic images and sound surround the viewer as she or he enters the installation room. The natural view of a man at a public urinal in Ghent turns the view back on us as he confronts the viewer in the accompanying photo by Anne-Marie Bliss. His view becomes a challenge, his "maleness" a weapon.

Fear, by Patricia Sherwood
oil on canvas

Men and their relationships to women was another theme that informed the works of artists in this exhibition. Couples interact in the paintings of Pat Sherwood and Alayne Yellum, while familial relationships and the delightfully character revealing "toys" give a detailed accounting of the subjects in Beth Yarnelle Edwards' photographs. "Thanks Dad", a collaborative mixed media piece by Francy Caprino, Beth Grossman and Gail Williams serves to both recognize and express appreciation for those relationships. Kathryn Dunlevie sums up the multi-faceted female gaze in her superb mixed media work "On Women Looking at Men."

The Spotless Counter, by Alayne Yellum
oil on canvas

Sandra Khoury, Bonnie Zimmerman, Deborah Trilling and Judith Marshall add elements of mystery and whimsy to their works, inviting us to consider the psychological asspects of their male subjects. Nancy Tector's "Talk-Talk" is a multli-media feast in the form of a robotic male. For Linda Fillhardt the psychological aspects are a little more direct. Prince Charming may have been a frog, but he still can't fill a man's shoes.

Talk Talk, by Nancy Tector
In a disturbing and aggressively compelling work, Cosette Dudley offers us a complex and moving portrait of injustice. In "Looking at Men Looking at Lotus Feet" the artist turns her gaze, and ours, upon the "male gaze" and a horrendous practice of binding women's feet, once considered by some to define beauty. It is a harsh reminder that living to fulfill another's canon of beauty can be one of the cruelest of acts.

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