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Women in the Picture: Women, Art and the Power of Looking

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Cultural archetypes have long been used to subjugate women, binding them within the restrictive roles of Venus, bride, wife, mother, and monster. These portrayals echo throughout the paintings and sculptures of western art—Titian, Botticelli, and Giambologna—and more contemporaneously in fashion photographs, ads, and across social media. By society empowering men to represent women, women imbibe a distorted vision of themselves and their bodies, coming up against notions of impossible beauty, idealized passivity and violence, and horrifying Medusas.


In this impassioned work, art historian Catherine McCormack evaluates the production and display of portrayals of women, exposing the underlying meanings, whether overt or symbolic. She counters them by turning to women artists like Berthe Morisot, Beyoncé, Suzanne Lacy, and Faith Ringgold. These women have been overturning confining depictions of identity, sexuality, race, and power to explore the breadth and multiplicity of women’s visions of their own lives.