Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Susan Brenner (53)

3 pieces from the series "This is History ... that is not over."

1990, oil on canvas in 2 panels, 73 1/4"x77"

-Beauty Secrets-
1991, oil on canvas in 2 panels, 50” x 102”

-The Reproduction of Hysteria Cruxifiement-
1991, oil on canvas, 50"x72"

Susan writes:

Issues related to women’s identity and their bodies have long been a concern of mine, and this concern has sometimes manifested itself in overt ways in my work. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I was par­ticularly interested in the language of gesture, the pose, within figurative representation.In 1990-91 this interest led me to create a body of work, focused on hysteria, using late-nineteenth century medical photographs as visual source material. Three works from this series are shown here. You can see additional pieces at

This is history…that is not over includes two installation works, a series of paintings, and a set of drawings with accompanying text panels. This work offers a sardonic view of hysteria as a defining metaphor for femininity. It draws parallels between the world of contemporary advertising and the nineteenth century institutions that produced and reproduced hysteria as a spec­tacle. It is built around a series of late-nineteenth century photographs of women institutionalized for hysteria at the Paris hospital la Salpetrière under the care of Dr. Jean Martin Charcot. They are disturbing and compelling images, presenting a picture of woman as an exotic other, an irrational being, a victim, simultaneously powerful and powerless. I appropriated these images, layering and juxtaposing them with frag­ments of historical and contemporary materials, with the intention of raising questions about the nature of identity.