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Viewer a Voyeur, Analyst in Exhibit About Women



DOUBLE X: Women Representing Women. UAB Visual Arts Gallery. Through Oct. 6.

This exhibition of photographs, paintings, film and a wall installation provide a graphic exploration by women of the various kinds of complexities experienced by women. It meanders along in pursuit of feelings and attitudes by way of specific imagery.

The photos record the internalized feelings and reactions of women. One of the most delightful works is Melissa Dadourian's ''Allison in the Water,'' a red string, glue and pin installation. Covering a good-sized wall, she uses 3,000 pins to guide the string about, forming an outline of a charming and coy girl that recalls calendar images of the 1940s.

Alexa Horochowski's large acrylic painting has a polished airbrush quality, showing a scantily-dressed cutie reading a book while riding a huge fish. The symbolism is brash to the point of funny, and could be a good knockoff image for a tattoo artist. ''Exodus'' is an atmospheric nighttime photo that

shows a girl going through the gate of a tall fence. The symbolic function of the stockade-like enclosure and the young woman sneaking out into a dark world suggests a wide range of scenarios.

Diana Shpungin and Nicole Englemann's continuous-loop tape shows two women face to face, spoon-feeding each other yogurt. The viewer must decide whether it is hypnotically erotic or merely monotonous. Mona Kuhn's ''Captured'' shows a nonsensual young couple at a naturist camp in France.

There are several portrait photographs of girls who stare directly into the camera, and a few nudes that are as much clinical as they are expressive.

To experience these works the viewer must become a participant, as a voyeur or analyst or a little of both.

ANATOMICAL THEATRE. UAB Historical Collections, Lister Hill Library. Through Dec. 7.

Assembled by Joanna Ebenstein, Reynolds fellow at UAB and historian and photographer, this exhibition shows that the history of medicine is as turbulent as any melodrama. As late as the 18th century, dissection and examination of corpses were forbidden by both church and state. Artists were curious about how muscles and tendons work, and used cadavers to explore the mechanics of movement. They were in constant danger of excommunication, or even death, for the practice. Doctors suffered under the same restrictions. The medicine practiced at the time was a matter of doctrine, superstition and tradition based on the teachings of the church. It is a story of bizarre cures and the perpetuation of traditional beliefs.

By the late 18th century, examination and preservation of diseased parts for instructional purposes finally became common practice. Although not part of this exhibition, medical illustration became and remains a useful teaching aid.

Except for medical students and doctors, there is, for the rest of us, the slightly uncomfortable feeling of satisfying one's morbid curiosity in viewing these photographs and specimens. The feeling soon passes with the realization that medical practices and procedures require knowledge of various pathologies, and that understanding could only come from examining abnormalities caused by diseases.

The most astonishing revelation is how quickly knowledge about human physiology expanded through the study of specific morphologies. Teaching through three-dimensional realizations in carved ivory and wood, modeled clay, preserved specimens in glass containers and, most recently, medical photography, has become invaluable.

Methods of preserving aberrations caused by disease, genetics, age and accidents are closely related to the descriptive power of art. These examples and specimens are not for macabre curiosity, but serve as dramatic illustrations of the phenomenal advances that have developed over the past 200 years.

The title of this exhibition, ''Anatomical Theatre,'' is a historically accurate term that makes the connection between performance and medical procedure. Before germs were understood and accepted, the general public could be spectators at surgical procedures in hospital operating arenas. This fascinating exhibit of afflicted flesh is an affirmation of what Dr. William Boyd said about speci-

men preservation when he wrote:

''It is a library composed, not of books, but of things themselves about which books are written.''

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