The Better Angels…

John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing, “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand, and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.” Laura Mulvey stated in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, “The male gaze is the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure.”

Developing the concept of the male gaze, Berger and Mulvey both provided an idea to describe the alleged power that men have over women. The women of burlesque maintain that the power is theirs, that by choosing the stage they defied social and gender norms to assert themselves and their bodies. Certainly, this sexualized and objectified construct of women in men’s eyes is outside of the home where it would be the “other” women, not the idealized, virtuous, home makers providing comfort in all forms. The Madonna-Whore dichotomy, as Freud defined it, where men perceive women’s nurturance and sexuality as mutually exclusive, today feels like an antiquated notion.

By combining imagery of burlesque and film stills, stitching as drawing on vintage handkerchiefs, I am flipping the notion of female identity – a female gaze. With the act of combining the satire of Victorian burlesque with the bawdiness of American burlesque, the treatment of this imagery on the hankies brings these girlies in to the home where they are the queens of their own realms.

“The social changes set in motion by the Civil War also began to erode the cultural hegemony of the domestic feminine ideal, the so-called angel in the house. Young women began to think of themselves as unique individuals rather than “true women,” initiating the decades-long movement toward the independent “new woman,” who would become a major cultural phenomenon at the turn of the twentieth century.”
–“Domestic and Sentimental Fiction .” American History Through Literature 1870-1920.

To borrow from Abraham Lincoln, these are the better angels.

The Better Angels are included in a group show at
The Maine Museum of Photographic Arts


Please join us for the opening reception on June 16th from 5-7 PM
the exhibition continues through August 5

Participating artists include:
Andrew O’Brian
Jessica Burko
Paul Rider
Lynn Karlin
Carol Eisenberg
Lauren Semivan
Candace DiCarlo
Sara Stites
Joyce Tenneson
Caroline Savage
Gail Skudera
Deborah Whitney
Claire Seidl