“We never really see ourselves–we see ourselves reflected in other people’s eyes, in the mirror, in popular culture, in people’s expectations, and in our own expectations,” says Debra N. Mancoff, explaining the idea behind “Reflections,” an exhibit at Woman Made Gallery that opens this weekend. Mancoff, an art historian and scholar in residence at the Newberry Library, hit on the concept through discussions with Woman Made Gallery’s Beate Minkovski and Janet Bloch. “We came up with the idea that it would be interesting to challenge women artists to create images that deal with the issue of our own beauty, either ideas that are imposed on us or ideas we have about ourselves.”
The subject of Marge Pacer’s Woman With a Glass Eye has a strangely divided face–half woman, half doll–hinting at two different concepts of beauty. Pamela Hobbs’s Captive Beauty is an oak curio cabinet holding a photograph of jumbled objects–a dressmaker’s dummy, a mirrored wardrobe reflecting nothing, a soiled doll’s leg, and inside a box, the tiny, bonneted head of a Victorian doll under glass rests on another box.
Mancoff says today’s standard of beauty doesn’t acknowledge that anything short of perfection can be attractive. “You look at the Gap commercials, where all the kids are singing ‘Mellow Yellow,'” she says. “They’re kids of every color, but when you look at them, they’re clearly from one economic group: all regular features, nobody fat, nobody really short, nobody really tall, nobody’s ears stick out. They all have good teeth. They don’t look like a group you could pull from a school yard, where kids’ freshness and vitality more than make up for irregular features.”
“Reflections,” at Woman Made Gallery, 1900 S. Prairie (773-328-0038), runs through October 8. Admission is free. –Mary Wisniewski
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): “Captive Beauty” by Pamela Hobbs.