While the theme of this current show at Pitzer’s Nichols Gallery is fairly abstract and not totally recognizable in the exhibit, the exhibit itself—a series of photos, postcards and installations—is fascinating and especially impressive in regard to the “gender politics” angle, which artist Carrie Yury exploits to exceptional success. In her series of 33×24 inch photoprints, Yury presents pictures of ladies in politics—Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Cindy McCain, Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin, among them. Except, they aren’t portraits of the women, but instead, microscopic pigment prints of their attire; it’s a bull’s eye, for, as we well know, whether Hillary’s coat was a hit or miss is much more important to the media—and to defining the woman—than if she’s actually bringing peace to the Middle East. Mathilde ter Heijne’s wall-rack of roughly 200 sepia-toned postcards of vintage women from all races is also a coup. Free to take by the public, each card has a portrait of an anonymous woman on the cover, usually one unearthed at the Library of Congress. On the backside, Heijne has printed fascinating bios of women from the same late 1800s to early 1900s period who were not nameless or faceless—some were even quite famous in their time. By marrying the forgotten women with, well, forgotten women who were at least known for a season, Heijne seeks to give identities back to the subjects, even if the identities are not their own. It can be deceptive to anyone unaware of the swap and might even create a temporary feeling of being duped, and yet it also points out an inescapable feminism: women banding together, sharing a common experience of being undervalued, forgotten and discarded—and in evoking this troubling realization, it points out a welcome and unanticipated power.
“Veronica” exhibition at the Nichols Gallery, Pitzer College, 1050 N. Mills Ave., Claremont, (909) 607-3143; www.pitzer.edu/artgalleries. Thru Dec. 11. Free.