Spheris exhibit, screening at Loew honor Kahlo's legacy

| 12/3/08 3:44am
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Courtesy of Disney
by Courtesy of The Spheris Gallery / The Dartmouth

As a result of this partnership, the Loew Auditorium is screening "The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo" tonight in conjunction with an exhibit at Spheris entitled "Contemporary Women's Self-Portraiture."

The film honors the work of Frida Kahlo, the woman artist who is remembered for her serious innovations in self-portraiture, candidly exhibiting her most personal emotions on the canvas.

Kahlo celebrated her unconventional beauty and embraced her sexuality in her portraits, defying conventional, idealized depictions of women in painting.

Many of her self-portraits reveal her personal struggles, such as a series of miscarriages, chronic pain from serious injuries sustained in a bus accident and a tumultuous relationship with her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera.

"Contemporary Women's Self-Portraiture" features the work of four female artists who specialize in self-portraiture along with the self-portraits created by eighth-grade girls in the Inner Landscapes Program, which is sponsored Great River Arts.

"Frida Kahlo was a singular voice in women's art making, especially given her genre of self-portraiture," Reeves said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "She was the individual who began depicting an inner state, not just representations of women doing their various quotidian tasks," she said.

"Kahlo manifested her inner turmoil and posited herself unwaveringly as the object of her paintings -- her message conveyed on her terms, with her unflinching gaze looking out at the viewer," Reeves said.

"Taking her work as a departure then for women's self-portraiture, we looked for several contemporary voices to illustrate how far that visual discourse had come over the past half century or so," she said.

Reeves described the process of choosing the four artists whose works comprise the upper gallery show: "Ultimately we selected these four to fit a loosely defined theme," she admitted. "We wanted to have one artist whose work was decidedly emotional, Sophie Jodoin; intellectual, as in the work of Tina Newberry, who poses as historic figures; physical, as in the riveting, larger than life-sized work of Susan Hauptman; and instinctive, which, in our view, is the work of Anna Schuleit. Together, they show a range of self-exposition that we felt necessary for the show," she said.

The self-portraits in the upper gallery present a wide range of artistic styles.

Hauptman's paintings almost pass as photography. In stark charcoal representations of herself, the artist is bald, slouching on a chair wearing men's clothing. Elsewhere she stands regally in a lace slip and gloves.

Sketched outlines and blocks of colors set Schuleit's paintings apart. Her dynamic lines seem like they could show any figure in movement.

Jodoin blurs her face with earth-toned paints in several of her paintings, while Newberry represents herself as famous male figures from history.

Reeves was glad to add even more diversity to "Contemporary Women," incorporating young girls' portraits at Spheris.

"We became interested in the subject because, through my non-profit, Great River Arts, we are offering a class called Inner Landscapes to eighth-grade girls," she explained.

"Through film, art projects and journaling, the girls examine how young women are depicted in the media and compare that depiction to their own sense of self and their own self image," she said. "It is a riveting class for the girls."

"We had some of these girls join us at Spheris for the opening last weekend, and they looked with great interest at the four woman artists' works on view and felt very cool about having their own self-portraits as part of the overall show," Reeves continued.

The works on display at the Spheris Gallery follow Kahlo's example, aiming to revolutionize how we perceive women. While their styles are all very different, each artist at the gallery takes after Kahlo, refusing to be defined by anyone but herself.

"I would say that, in great measure, the works have a defiance," said Reeves.

After tonight's film, there will be a discussion panel with Brian Kennedy, director at the Hood Museum of Art, and Amy Stechler, the writer, director and producer of the documentary.

Kennedy will give a brief summary of the film, discuss contemporary self-portraiture and speak about Kahlo's influence. Afterwards Stechler will hold a question and answer session.

The documentary and panel discussion will begin at 6 p.m. in Loew Auditorium. "Contemporary Women's Self-Portraiture" will be at the Spheris Gallery through Jan.6.