I/Eye: On Photography

From “Los Caprichos”: Oculta las costuras

Posted in Los Caprichos, platinum palladium, Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 22, 2017
From the series *Los caprichos: after Goya*: "Oculta las costuras" (She hides the seams.)

From the series Los Caprichos: after Goya: “Oculta las costuras” (She hides the seams.) The Caprichos are a series of 80 platinum palladium prints made from photos of moving footage shot from a computer screen. The prints are inspired by Goya’s album of the same name, published in 1799.

 

Even in this headless state, this “she” is already ready: she’s the embodiment of modern advances in “plastic surgery”.  The position of her feet and legs, though, connect her to the past and to Goya’s imagery of women.

Eleanor Sayre, the Goya scholar, left us a clear picture of the iconography of women in Los Caprichos (of 1799): you could tell what a woman was by the position of the feet, legs and hips (though a witless fop might be duped  irrespective of the use of a powerful monocle, such as that employed in plate 7, Ni asi la distingue).  A wide stance, with toes turned out, was indicative to the reader — and there were many women with turned-out toes in the original series. Why is that?

Sayre speculated that it had to do with with the scourge of  venereal disease in the urban centers of 18th-century Spain, a result of the deregulation of prostitution under Phillip IV in 1623, when women were forced out onto the street to ply their trade without the benefit of reliable shelter or medical attention. By the time of Goya’s Caprichos, published at the very end of the eighteenth century, it’s easy to see why people would think it was the women who were to blame. The sex dolls in this Capricho are at any rate immune…

 

 

 

 

 

*Los Caprichos* in Oakland: creating a pop-up exhibition

Posted in exhibitions, Los Caprichos, platinum palladium by Sheila Newbery on August 17, 2017
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Dawn McGuire (right) and I during a Q&A. (Photo: Hanneke van Proosdij.)

Sometimes you have to get creative when it comes to organizing a show. Poet Dawn McGuire and I decided to put together a “pop-up” show in the East Bay a couple of months ago. Our idea was to have a viewing of 30 palladium prints from my book project Los Caprichos, followed by a reading from Dawn’s new collection American Dream with Exit Wound. We were both drawn to an event that would combine literary and visual arts, and thought our work dovetailed well for this purpose. The whole thing would last only a few hours and would be packed up and put away at the end of the show. The question was where to do it.

I had a number of ideas about location, and felt optimistic at first about being able to find a place even though the Bay Area is notoriously short on supply of cheap exhibition space. But when none of my ideas panned out, we were back to square one. Then Dawn approached the owner of a body shop in Oakland. She (the owner) was game! And when I saw her space, my jaw dropped.  It was gorgeous.

Of course our pop-up audience thought we’d somehow managed to wrangle a commercial gallery (the body shop was better looking than many galleries I’ve seen). When I told visitors that we were in a body shop, they were dumbfounded: “You mean they really fix cars here?” Yep. They do.

It was a great place to mount a show. The strategy was to keep it simple:  we arranged the tables in a basic formation and “installed” the prints on upraised pieces of chipboard, covered by a pearl gray printmaking stock (Stonehenge paper). The tilt was achieved by placing 2” diameter styrofoam balls under the upper corners of the chipboard. The pearl gray stock was laid flat on the board, and the prints were placed on top of that. The prints were “anchored” with gravity (and inertia), though we’d brought magnets in case a firmer attachment was needed. Viewers could wander freely among the tables.

Here’s a photo taken as we were setting up. That’s Dawn at the far right looking at the prints. The nice thing about the space is that it’s open to the street, so people could just wander in off the sidewalk to take a look.

Artist Ana Quintanilla helped with the installation and kicked off the show by reading a prose-poem about the Caprichos, written by her father, the artist and critic Raúl Quintanilla.

You can read  a description of the Caprichos project here.

*Los Caprichos* pop-up show

Here’s what our pop-up installation looked like.