“Suits,” a set of digitally manipulated media images, are extreme close-ups of political women’s clothing. These images raise questions about the construction of public personality for women politicians. The attention paid to Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits or Michelle Obama’s dresses is a perfect microcosm of the way women are framed in politics as both surface and object, their femininity exaggerated, maligned or questioned. Using very small source files, I blow up sections of the politicians’ apparel and then blur them to the point that they become abstracted, almost but not quite unrecognizable. The different sartorial choices made by different political figures (or their wives) reflect not only party lines, but also a whole range of related and conflicting ideologies about a woman’s place in public life. My intense, exaggerated focus on the surface is both a critique and an exploration of our cultural fascination with political women’s appearance.
First Ladies (2010)
“First Ladies” is a series of 24”x33” photo-drawings exploring the imagined psyches of American Presidents’ wives. I draw internal monologues on top of photographs of the First ladies, exploring the subjugation of self/accomplishment, and story in the service of one’s husband’s career. Based on widely available biographical data, I inhabit or borrow the consciousness of each first lady, creating snippets of narrative explanation and reaction to key events in the First Lady’s life. Continuing with my fascination with how American women are represented in private and public life, “First Ladies” attempts to go beyond the surface and into the substance of their experience. Using a personal confessional voice, I explore the tensions created by the incommensurability of the personal with living in the public eye as the feminine embodiment of a political party.