Corrections or additions?
This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the November 7, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Women on Both Sides of the Camera
The first thing you’ll see upon entering the exhibition
"Camera Women" at the Art Museum, Princeton University, is
a set of six gelatin silver prints, six images from Mary Kelly’s
Bathing Series" (1974). Each diminutive photograph shows us a
fragment of baby: a pair of eyes; moist lips; the perfect whorl of
a newborn ear; a crease of flesh. Kelly’s black-and-white
are so soft and luminous you may think you smell the baby’s fragrant
"Camera Women" is a small, selective survey show with a catchy
title. Housed in a single room, it traces the history of photography
almost from its invention in 1839, right through to the end of the
20th century, all from the perspective of the woman photographer.
Organized by art historian and Princeton faculty member Carol
the show is designed to challenge us to think about women as artists
in general and photographers in particular, women as the subjects
of art, and — inevitably, if one is a woman — of women as
consumers of art.
Comprised of four walls of images, plus two surfaces of a freestanding
panel, the gallery becomes its own "Women’s Room" — a
gathering of many different kinds of work that come together in a
cacophonous conversation addressing all the vexing questions about
art and gender. Although you’ll find no consensus here about what
women in photography want, this throng of individualists appears to
be united by the throaty "hurrah!" it voices for the feminist
movement in art history. The product of bold ideas incubated in the
1960s, feminist art history has marched, for three decades now, under
the banner of Linda Nochlin’s gate-rattling 1971 essay, "Why Have
There Been No Great Women Artists?"
Nochlin’s essay, first published in Art News (and now anthologized
in Nochlin’s "Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays"), asked
its deceptively simple and deliberately provocative question at a
time when H. W. Janson’s notorious 1960s edition of "History of
Art," a 600-page survey of the field dating back roughly to the
dawn of time — included myriad images of women but just one woman
artist. "The fault lies not in our stars, our hormones, our
cycles, or our empty internal spaces," wrote Nochlin at the end
of the 1960s, "but in our institutions and our education —
education understood to include everything that happens to us from
the moment we enter this world of meaningful symbols, signs, and
This small show will be harnessed to Nochlin’s imposing wagon when
she comes to Princeton to open a conference of some 18 leading women
art historians, "Women Artists at the Millennium," on November
9 and 10, with a talk titled "`Why Have There Been No Great Women
Artists?’ Thirty Years Later." Among those sharing the two-day
meeting will be British artist Mary Kelly, whose "Post-Partum
Document," a multimedia record of the first six years in the life
of her son (1973-97), has been as influential as Nochlin’s text. Other
participating artists include Ann Hamilton and Yvonne Rainer, and
theorists Griselda Pollock, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, and Anna Chave.
That the "Camera Women" show includes such
figures as Julia Margaret Cameron, Gertrude Kasebier, and Diane Arbus,
says much about photography’s special position in the art world.
to photography’s relative youth, . . . its less entrenched
and the less fixed nature of its canon, the female photographer has
had the occasional entry-permit into the pantheon of `Great
as well as into the back rooms of everyday photography, issued to
her since the very beginning," explains Marta Weiss in the
to the show’s smart and sleek accompanying catalog. Photography has
offered fertile ground for women, and almost 200 individual women
photographers are represented in Princeton’s permanent collection,
much of it collected under the guidance of faculty curator Peter C.
Bunnell. In this show that begins with England’s 19th-century
Amateurs," you’ll also find such contemporary photographers as
Nan Goldin, Lorna Simpson, and Cindy Sherman, widely recognized as
among America’s most celebrated artists working in any genre.
"But why are all the women in one room?" is the familiar
that inevitably accompanies ventures like "Camera Women."
Yet in the context of the traditional male claim to
Armstrong’s experimental ghetto deliberately seeks to shine a light
on the relationship between the sex of the artist and the gendering
(or not) of her work. Yes, women were behind the camera, often
their authorial gaze at other women. Yet the show reminds us that
the woman viewer — now as in the 19th century — is also
differently from the male. And for the woman viewer, there’s
pleasure to be taken in the recognition of shared experience, social
codes, and the tireless battling of limits and boundaries.
One of photography’s earliest woman practitioners, Anna Atkins, has
pride of place in the show with her cameraless cyanotype of 1854.
"Asplenium Braziliense, S. America," from Atkins’ unique album
of botanical images, is an image of two sprays of fern. It was created
by placing a plant specimen on light-sensitized paper which was then
exposed to sunlight. Whereas a botanical illustrator — or Atkins
herself, if she pleased — might select a couple of unblemished
fern fronds, Atkins’s are closely observed and highly specific. These
ferns aren’t of the manufactured variety: we see new growth on the
tip of one; old growth on the other that emanates from a crumpled
One of the greatest pleasures of a good museum is its capacity to
bring us close to "the real thing." Such is the jolt of Julia
Margaret Cameron’s "Elaine" (1875), an albumen print tipped
in to Princeton’s venerable edition of her vision "Tennyson’s
Idylls of the King and Other Poems." Displayed in a freestanding
case is the original home-produced volume, which Cameron illustrated
with her posed pictures of friends, family, and household staff, all
envisioned in a Pre-Raphaelite vein. On the wall, and equally powerful
in address, is Cameron’s portrait of Sir John Herschel (1867),
experimenter, and co-inventor of some of photography’s founding
Cameron shows us this grizzled "Gentleman Amateur" sporting
a mop of white hair above a furrowed brow, bushy eyebrows, all framing
the man’s mesmerizing pale, moist eyes.
No all women wanted to tread their own path. By the turn of the
Anne Brigman’s untitled nude with glass globe of 1910 seems to answer
one of the show’s key gender questions. It tells us that women’s
of female nudes with glass bubbles look pretty much the same as the
guys’ images of nudes with glass bubbles — pretty silly.
Margaret Bourke-White, revered as a documentary photo essayist, is
customarily represented in museums by black and white images that
are fairly grand. In a display case here she’s represented by the
real thing: A copy of Life magazine containing a complement of her
pictures. Although they may appear to be reproduced too small,
and with captions that intrude, this choice is an apt reminder that
Bourke-White was also revered by other women for successfully earning
her living doing work she loved.
No matter where you try to look in this room of "Camera
photographer Lisette Model wins my award for bravery hands down. She’s
not about to let you leave this show without encountering what a woman
can be — "Coney Island, Standing" — and enjoying it.
This vintage "bathing beauty" is a big cheerful woman who
poses in a bent knee stance, hands braced on knees, giving optimum
exposure to a cleavage that knows no bounds. Model, who immigrated
from Vienna to New York in 1938, taught at the New School where Diane
Arbus was one of her students. The lineage is unmistakable.
"Camera Women" evolved out of Armstrong’s seminar, "Women
in Photography" that set out to interrogate photographs first
hand, asking how a history of women photographers might differ from
the history of photography as it is usually told. (For one answer
to this particular question, step across the hall to "What
Look Like," Peter Bunnell’s annual teaching show that has only
one women in its ranks this year, Gertrude Kasebier, a portraitist
with an interest in manipulating photographic images in the style
of many of the painters of her day.) And how women are placed in the
world is an overriding theme.
Nan Goldin’s now classic image of a young couple making out is
of her apparent ability to become invisible while she photographically
documents the emotional landscape in which she has placed herself.
Eileen Cowin’s patently artificial tableau that hangs nearby seems
like Goldin’s absolute complement. This 1981 image of an anxious woman
seated on the side of a bed in which a man still sleeps, while someone
standing between her and us (the camera) — someone who could well
be the same woman dressed in street clothes — looks on. She seems
to be standing interrogating herself. Surely many female viewers will
recognize, intuitively, the stepping outside of oneself (particularly
when men and beds are concerned) and asking "What am I doing
Cowin’s effortless sleight of hand says it all.
— Nicole Plett
609-258-3788. On view to January 6. The exhibition will then travel
to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, January 25
through March 24. Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.
101 McCormick Hall, 609-258-1835. A two-day conference co-sponsored
by the Program in the Study of Women and Gender and the Department
of Art and Archaeology. Free. Friday and Saturday, November 9 and
show featuring six children’s book illustrators: Jeffrey Allon
Best Jewish Children’s Stories"), Katya Arnold ("The
of Snow Woman"), Bob Byrd ("Finn McCoul and his Fearless
Katie Davis ("Who Hops?"), Thomas F. Yetzerski ("Perfect
and Mary Zisk ("The Best Single Mom in the World") are
Open by appointment during school hours. To November 9.
"The Secret Garden," a solo show of mystical oil paintings
and watercolors by Ukrainian-born Valeriy Skrypka. Open Tuesday to
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To November 24.
Skrypka was born in the Ukraine in 1964, the son of a non-conformist
painter and Soviet dissident. He received a rigorous classical
at the Ukrainian Academy in Kiev, but broke with tradition as he
his own style that draws on realism, surrealism, Byzantine, and
Exhibit of works by Leonid Gervitz, a graduate of the Odessa Art
who spent 24 years working and teaching in the Russian realist
at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. Open Tuesday
to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday to 9 p.m.; Sunday
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To December 1.
609-921-0434. Oil paintings by New Jersey artist Cynthia A. Dawley.
Open Monday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday,
10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. To November 11.
Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "Today’s News, Tomorrow’s
a show celebrating 18,000 photographs taken by the Princeton Packet’s
photographers and donated to the Historical Society’s permanent
Show runs to March, 2002.
Paintings by Calvin Cobb Hart. Part of sales benefit the Medical
On view in the dining room daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. To November
"Artista Cuba," contemporary Cuban folk art from the
of Jorge Armenteros who has been studying and collecting Cuban art
since 1996. Works from the fine art world as well as rustic art made
of found materials. "At its best, Cuban folk art is vivid,
sensual, and inspiring. In it, you will find a purity of appreciation
for light, color, and life’s simple pleasures," says Armenteros.
"Sights and Sounds of Manhattan and Princeton," a group show
featuring art by Michael Berger, Laury Egan, David Leibowitz, Allan
Tannenbaum, and Rolf Weijburg." Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday,
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To November 20.
609-620-6026. Annual faculty exhibit featuring Brian Daniell, Jamie
Greenfield, Amanda Kamen, Ed Robbins, Allen Fitzpatrick, Leonid
William Vandever, and others. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday,
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; except Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.
To November 16.
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Unlimited Possibilities: Jacob
Works on Paper, 1950 to 2000." The internationally-known
printmaker, painter, and stained glass designer is professor emeritus
at the Pratt Institute. Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday, 8:30
a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. To December 7.
Lawrenceville, 609-895-5589. "Leland Bell: Works from the 1950s
to 1991," an exhibition of works by the New York School artist
who died in 1991. "Bell was a powerful artist who was also an
influential teacher and popular lecturer," says Rider professor
Deborah Rosenthal. "He clearly articulated the role of tradition
in art, particularly contemporary art. Bell strongly affected a
generation of artists, many of whom became his close friends."
Gallery hours at Monday to Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; Friday to Sunday,
2 to 5 p.m. To December 11.
Hill: Art from the Hill," an exhibition celebrating Mill Hill
residents with artwork by Ann and Jim Carlucci, Victoria Cattanea,
Peter Crandall, Andre Daughtry, Lisa Fullemann, Pierre Jaborska, Lisa
and Peter Kasabach, and others. Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to
4 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.
609-292-6464. "George Washington and the Battle of Trenton: The
Evolution of an American Image," an exhibition that documents
the historic context of the American Revolution, the "Ten Crucial
Days" of the Trenton campaign and the subsequent commemoration
of George Washington’s heroic image by American artists.
Also "American Indians as Artists: The Beginnings of the State
Museum’s Ethnographic Collection," to December 15. "Natural
Selections: Sculpture by Elaine Lorenz," to December 30. Tuesday
through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Website:
609-695-0061. Albert Wilking’s "expressionist primitive"
paintings. His inspiration comes from personal experiences, dreams,
and visual, physical, and spiritual insights. Wednesday to Saturday,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To December 2.
"Still Life Manipulations," Sabatier photographs by Marilyn
Anderson, and "Windows, Water & Wonders," hand-painted and
digital photographs by Rhoda Kassof Isaac. Gallery hours are Saturday,
Noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. To November 25.
Show by nine artists of The Art Group, formed in 1992. Shop hours
are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To November 10.
"Big Skies," a shared show featuring landscape paintings by
David Shevlino and Lisa Grossman. Shevlino’s landscapes are inspirited
by the New England and Delaware Valley, whereas Grossman depicts the
flatlands of the Midwest. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6
p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To November 17.
Branch Station, 908-725-2110. The 27th annual juried members show,
juried by Lynne Allen, director of the Rutgers Center for Innovative
Print and Paper. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m.
to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. To December 21
609-737-7592. "Sense of Place," an exhibition featuring the
fine art and illustrative photography of Phil Moylan, Andy Chen, Marc
Stempel, and George Vogel. To November 10.
609-252-6275. "Up the River," an exhibition of works by more
than 40 Bucks County Impressionists and Modernists, members of the
New Hope and Bucks County art colony now regarded as national
Catalog by Brian Peterson of the Michener Museum in Doylestown.
hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and weekends and
1 to 5 p.m. To November 25.
Artists represented include Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber, Walter
Schofield, Charles Ramsey, Louis Stone, Charles Evans, and Lloyd Ney.
Garden State Watercolor Society, fifth annual associate member juried
exhibition; jurors Gary Snyder and Seow-Chu See. Open Monday to
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To November 29.
"Chaos and Crossroads" featuring paintings by Florence Moonan
and sculptures by Jonathan Hertzel. Gallery is open Thursday to
noon to 5 p.m. To November 12.
609-397-5679. "Road Work: Paintings of American Culture,"
an exhibition of new work by Robert Beck. Through November.
Fall show featuring Mike Filipiak, John Loeper, and Harriet
Open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To November 11.
James T. Lang, lithographs, colographs, and mixed-media works on
in the Artworks Building. Gallery is open noon to 9 p.m. daily.
609-397-4978. "Apropos," Malcolm Bray’s seventh annual show
of innovative contemporary painting and sculpture. Artists include
Rachel Bliss, Malcolm Bray, Jacques Fabert, Michael Hale, Diane
Bonnie MacLean, Dolores Poacelli, Barry Snyder, Patricia Traub, and
Annelies van Dommelen. Hung upstairs above the antique showroom, show
is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., to December 31.
"Monster Mash," a show of creepy snarling, and bug-eyed
by Dave Burke and Stephen Blickenstaff. Website: www.tinmanalley.net.
Gallery hours are Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. To November
edition of "Class Act," a resource guide with educational and outreach
programming highlighted. To receive a free copy, call 973-593-0189 or
sizes. Collections are at Nassau Presbyterian and Trinity Episcopal
Churches in Princeton on Sunday, November 11,
p.m. Call 609-396-9355.
from now until Thursday, November 15.
offices at 1321 Brunswick Avenue or 151 Mercer Street, Trenton,
Mondays through Saturdays. Call 609-396-1506.
Collections from Princeton United Methodist, Unitarian Church of
Princeton, and Trinity Episcopal Churches in Princeton, will be sorted
and shelved on Sunday, November 18,
East Hanover Street in Trenton. Call 609-396-9355.
and paperback books as well as monetary contributions for the "Books
to Keep" program to give books to disadvantaged children in Middlesex
County. Donations may be brought to any library in Middlesex Country
through Saturday, December 15. Call 732-390-6789.
cancer support group. "Living with Cancer" brings together cancer
patients, families, and friends to share experience, solutions, and
concerns. The group will meet at Momentum Fitness, 377 Wall Street,
Princeton. Call Lois Glasser at 800-813-4673, ext. 107.
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