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Suzy Lake: Political Poetics
25 Aug 2012 – 7 Oct 2012
Peonies and the Lido #7 2000-2002
40 x 54
photo courtesy of the artist
Organized by the University of Toronto Art Centre and the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.
Acknowledged by Cindy Sherman as a pioneer in feminist performance for the camera, Suzy Lake began to receive critical attention in the 1970s with works such as Choreographed Puppets 1976. She has continued to build her oeuvre around the experience of gendered embodiment and, in recent photographic series like Peonies and the Lido 2002 (a riff on Visconti’s film Death in Venice) the struggles with self-image of the aging woman. The off-beat selection of works highlights Puppets and Lido among other, less known bodies of work, spanning the period 1972 to 2009—nearly forty years.
The poetic content of Lake’s photographs is greatly enhanced by her use of effects specific to camera work. The camera’s abilities to blur or stop motion, and to be selective in its focus and depth of field, are exploited to the fullest, as are a variety of darkroom and printing techniques.
Using costumes, make-up and props, Lake assumes various identities in her self-portraits. By revealing the artifice of her adopted personae, she dramatizes the self-transformation involved in posing for the camera/gaze. Her work suggests that femininity is a construct that may be imposed or voluntarily assumed. Along with her American contemporaries, Hannah Wilke and Carolee Schneemann, Suzy Lake has been instrumental in founding an influential tendency in committed, feminist artmaking.
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