Art exhibit offers new take on gender


Students take in artwork Thursday evening, Oct. 15, at the University Art Gallery. The show, entitled "Gender," features work by multiple artists examining gender identity, and will be open to the public through Nov. 14, 2015.

In the exhibit “Gender,” currently on display in the University Art Gallery, everything from photographs of androgynous models in various stages of undress, to a looped video of a woman pricking herself on a cactus is on display.

The exhibit opened Thursday, featuring ten artists from the United States, Canada and South Korea made art for the exhibit under the theme of gender identity, masculinity, femininity and transgenderism.

Among the art on display was a series of glass cases that contained various dieting books for young women, with a sign along the bottom that read “In case of emergency, break glass”. There was also a painting of two male models with the words “THIS IS AMERICA” printed across their sculpted abs asked the viewer, “Which word do you emphasize?”

The front of the gallery featured the work of Catherine Forster, who said her work was inspired by her 13-year-old transgender daughter. 

“This is the age where a lot of individuals come out,” Forster said. “This should be where (my art) is at, where young people are trying to figure out all these issues.” 

Forster’s work is also on display at a commercial gallery in Nashville, where she is a guest lecturer. 

“I definitely think these issues should be in dialogue,” she said. “As a woman, there is so much in society to tell you who and what you should be. My work is a lot about femininity beyond the biological.”

Loissa Harrison-Parks, a senior from Grand Rapids, has spent the past several months helping to set up the exhibit, her favorite piece being a series of sculptures of the female body titled "Venus of Fonda." 

“I think the Venuses are pretty important,” Harrison-Parks said. “I guess it’s kind of a statement about how we view the idealized body, how that changes over time, how we handle things like weight and things that don’t really have anything to do with being beautiful.”

Artist John Clarke’s work focused on the opposite end of the gender spectrum and what it means to be a man. 

“I investigate ideas related to masculinity,” Clarke said. “This is looking to show people different aspects of what masculinity can look like, how we might form it through how we dress, (and) what our general perceptions of it are.” 

Clarke’s work featured various intimate portraits of men he encountered in his day-to-day life, he said.

The exhibit held a reception on Oct. 15 and is free and open to the public, and will run until November 14.


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