One of the central accomplishments of Inside Out Loud is its recontextualization of classic 1970s feminist conceptual work among more recent explorations of women's health that involve new media and technology. Martha Rosler's video "Losing: A Conversation with the Parents" (1977), concerning a daughter's death from anorexia, takes on a new light when seen together with Elizabeth Subrin's 1995 video "Swallow," which focuses on contemporary cultural pressures that cause eating disorders.
Works by Hannah Wilke deservedly enjoy a central position in this exhibition. On view are powerful photographs that survey the ravages of cancer and its treatment, as it affected her mother, and then herself. Portrait of the Artist with her Mother, Selma Butter (1978-1981) shows Butter, after a mastectomy and a stroke, alongside an image of Wilke, who's sporting toy weapons on her chest. Later self-portraits, such as Intra-Venus #4 (1992), feature the artist herself grappling with the effects of chemotherapy by role-playing for her camera. By creating and enacting a metaphorical language of her experience, Wilke subverts the familiar classification of cancer sufferer as unfortunate victim, lacking control of her medical fate. Wilke died in 1993 at the age of 53, but her spirit seems to abide in every work in this show.
Courtesy of the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Zoe Leonard's Beauty Calibrator, Museum of
Beauty, Hollywood, 1993. Gelatin silver print, 33 x
17". Collection of Peter Norton, Santa Monica.
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Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
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And while Susan Sontag is not represented directly in this exhibition, her spirit likewise pervades it. The author of "Illness as Metaphor" and Regarding the Pain of Others would certainly have appreciated Inside Out Loud. Here, it's the artists, not the doctors, who wield the tools; with them, the artists deconstruct the dominant social and medical discourses surrounding the lives of women. Their work will likely permanently alter the way you think about women, health, sickness and life.