What attracts me to art is the same thing that attracts me to friendships: an intimate connection communicated in an unsettling package."
So writes curator Cara Ober in her catalog essay to Inward Gazes, the intriguing show of 13 women artists on view at the Rosenberg Gallery on the campus of Goucher College.
Intimate and unsettling are indeed apt descriptions of the two dozen or so feminist-inspired works in this exhibition, which are both intensely personal and, in many cases, quite deliberately provocative.
Ober notes that although she was taught in school that the alleged differences between men and women's art are wholly artificial social constructs, she never believed it.
Men and women are different, she insists, and it is those differences that are, in large part, what makes the art women create so interesting.
"Women are fascinated with the mystery inside of their own bodies and the cyclical nature of life and death," she writes. "Women speak in baroque tones - emphatic high pitches and exaggerated low intonations. Women divulge the most personal information to complete strangers and, through this transaction, chemically bond into friends."
The fascination with the body's chemistry is apparent in the drawings and videos of Cindy Rehm, which are nearly obsessive in their focus on such metaphorical and symbolic objects as flowers and blood.
Kini Collins, a writer and martial arts expert who took up painting about a decade ago, approaches issues of the body more obliquely but no less startlingly through reference to its absence, represented in this case by the glistening, sloughed off skin of a large snake (which may also suggest the biblical Eve's calamitous encounter with temptation and its sad result).
Photographers Sherry Insley and Elena Volkov adapt even more subtle tropes. Insley's pictures of women in intimate, domestic settings seem even more voyeuristic once one realizes they are actually reflected images on the shiny surfaces of ordinary light-switch covers, which gives them a kind of fly-on-the-wall quality of privileged, secret observation.
Volkov's deadpan image of a light-filled but otherwise empty room may likewise be a comment on interiors and voids, or perhaps on the bodily organs of vision and sight and how easily they are frustrated.
Ober writes that the show was conceived to offer viewers "an opportunity to experience a variety of female visual communication, generating a complex and contradictory portrait of female creators." In this she has succeeded. As she notes, "Whether brutal, humorous, or both, the stories told through these paintings, sculpture and photographs are always authentic."
Other artists in the show are Laura Amussen, Julie Benoit, Charnan Lewis, Jennifer McBrien, Lynn Silverman, Jo Smail, Sylvie Van Helden, Lyndie Vantine and Annie Waldrop.
The show runs through Dec. 19. The gallery is on the campus of Goucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson. Call 410-337-6333.
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