Guest blogger Petya Kukularova takes us to MoMA’s current lady-centric exhibition, which brings us images of pregnancy, domestic violence, and beautification rituals.
Glamour and domestic violence are worlds apart. That, at least, is what I thought before seeing the exhibition Sweet Violence by artist Sanja Iveković on show at the MoMA until March 26.
The exhibition starts with a bang. Or rather with a very tall sculpture of the Golden Lady – Luxemburg’s national symbol, with one detail you can’t overlook: the represented woman is heavily pregnant. What’s so radical about that? If you think about famous sculptures of females, can you think of a single one which is pregnant? I know I couldn’t.
While this work was fascinating, some of the issues it raised seemed at least as far removed from daily life as the pedestal on which Lady Rosa was standing.
And then came a work that shook my casual afternoon visit: Women’s House (Sunglasses), 2002-2009. A series of 12 black-and-white posters on which female models are advertising designer sunglasses have been appropriated by the artist in order to tell the stories of 12 women in shelters.
What links the gorgeous models and the battered or otherwise abused women is the sunglasses. In the posters they are the finishing touch in a perfect ensemble. In Sanja’s work they become the ill-functioning camouflage of abuse. No glasses are big enough to conceal a black eye and it takes one concerned gaze to shatter the veneer of being well put together.
How many of us create such a veneer through the careful or not-so-careful use of make-up was the topic of another poignant work included here: Make Up, Make Down. In her video installation — which shows her putting on makeup very slowly — Sanja was laying bare what many of us work hard to conceal: dark circles, undereye bags, wrinkles. Instructions No. 1 from 1976 made my ongoing search for the perfect undereye concealer seem even more doomed. Easy to blend, offers full-coverage yet looks natural, doesn’t settle in fine lines and wrinkles and stays put all day. Drop me a line if you have used such a miracle-worker.
Petya Kukularova is an art journalist based in London who works in print and video journalism and runs artyculate.com. She graduated with an MA in History of Art from University College London.