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Three Women Photographers Challenge Long-held Ideas of Beauty & Gender

Role Reversal, an exhibition currently on view at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) presents the work of three women photographers whose images push back against long-held perceptions of beauty and gender roles in visual culture.

“Gender disparity has long played an important part in informing the way we look at art and art history,” explains the press release. “Traditionally, men are the artists and viewers, while women have been confined to play the role of the muse: subjects to be painted, sculpted, and photographed by and from the male perspective.”

Yet the images made by Christa Blackwood, Lissa Rivera, and Jessica Yatrofsky are not simply the antithesis of the male narrative. Their work challenges “us to question how images influence our beliefs and assumptions about the opposite sex,” said CPACs Executive Director Samantha Johnston in a statement.

Inspired by Edward Weston, Harry Callahan, and Alfred Stieglitz, Blackwood celebrates the male form by re-interpreting classical photographic nude studies of the human figure. The series, called Beauty Revisited, includes 8×10 inch gilded platinum prints on vellum and large 20×24 inch hand pulled photogravures.

Rivera’s project, Beautiful Boy, which looks at how male displays of femininity can be both accepted and reviled in American society, features her lover. Together, the pair “investigate feminine fantasies presented throughout the history of photography and cinema,” writes Rivera in her artist statement. “It is important to show his femininity as strength,” notes the photographer.

I Heart Boy, Yatrofsky’s series, captures male nudes posed against minimalist backgrounds in naturally lit rooms. The men’s lanky, almost androgynous, bodies are a contrast to the widely and historically accepted depictions of muscular male figures.

Role Reversal reminds us how powerful photography can be in shaping our perception of others,” concludes Johnston.

Role Reversal
March 2 – April 7, 2018
Colorado Photographic Arts Center

Related Articles
Exploring Gender and Identity from “Disruptive Perspectives”
A Tender Attack on Gender Binaries
Picture Story: Breaking Free of a Gender Box (For PDN Subscribers only; login required)


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