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November Issue 2003
Rabold Gallery in Aiken, SC, Offers Works by Deanne Dunbar
The Rabold Gallery in Aiken, SC, presents Deanne Dunbar: Objects of Desire, an exhibit of paintings in oil on canvas and paper by the Pennsylvania artist. The exhibit opens Nov. 20 and continues through Feb. 14, 2004. Deanne Dunbar: Objects of Desire is a feminist art exhibit in three sections, with each section contributing a distinct perspective to the artist's overall vision.
Dunbar takes exception to the idea that feminist art is a movement like Op Art or Dada. "I hope the work begun in the early seventies will be the beginning of an art history that embraces women and allows them to develop their particular content for generations," she said. The test, she concedes, is time. "As with any art of a political nature, feminist art begins to lose its potency as the art world ushers in the new," she added. "The situation of women is the problem of thousands of years, but now there is pressure to 'solve' it more quickly."
Dunbar contends that the female artist sees no work like hers among the great masterpieces. "She finds she has been excluded from art making and representation for centuries," she said. "The notion of artistic genius was born in and remained a description in the masculine tradition."
The first body of work is described as "The Great Models Paintings." These self-portraits depict the artist in a restaging of European portraits from the 15th through early 19th centuries. Dunbar has appropriated the graceful, aristocratic hand gestures, the background draperies and couches in satin and velvet, and the smooth skinned female models in the European tradition and has adapted them to new effect. This work suggests a historical reclamation from the fathers of painting through a critical look at the male gaze. It considers the value system and designations of quality perpetuated and reinforced by a white, male, European art history.
Dunbar's work considers the new-sprung efforts of feminism, the young female artist in the beginning of her career, and the shallow pool of the American art tradition by employing the iconography of the young girl. The appearance of pigtails, buckle shoes, and baby teeth in the paintings calls to mind the naïve and formative.
The second body of work, described as "The Shirley Temple Paintings," appropriates the curly locks of this American, Depression era icon of childishness, feminine simplicity and purity, and old-fashioned values. Shirley Temple remains young in the public consciousness, not as a mature, thinking woman interested in politics. As a symbol here, she illustrates the transient nature of attractiveness and the inability of the "beauty culture" to adequately serve the effort of female empowerment.
The third body of work, titled "The Spy Paintings," serves to inform the other two bodies. Again, critical attention is paid to the masculine gaze, but here in a contemporary context. The viewer sees the imposition of sexuality, an implied violence, and invasion. This series suggests the final result of the construction of a female identity under the watchful eye of a masculine tradition.
Dunbar studied art at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, and has exhibited throughout western Pennsylvania. She twice received purchase awards at shows at The Erie Art Museum and twice received the Doane Purchase Award in Meadville. She won the 2000 Doane Prize in Painting and the 2003 Juror's Prize at the Meadville Center for the Arts. Also a writer, Dunbar received the 2001 Ione Sandberg Shriber Prize in Creative Writing and the 2003 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship for Fiction.
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