I’m Not a Girl examines the myriad depictions and representations of women within Carleton’s Art Collection. Some are on the cusp of womanhood, others are mature mothers, and a few are somewhere in between. Instead of shallow sexual objects, I present a few of the innumerous facets of womanhood, spanning perceptions of beauty and femininity through differing ethnicities, life stages, and eras.
Fortuna (Or Nemesis) (1502) displays a classically beautiful female body. Albrecht Dürer pushes the boundaries of the 16th century by depicting a woman as a powerful figure embodying a goddess.
A female photographer, Clementina Howarden offers feminine sensitivity in the photograph Two Women on a Balcony (1864). Howarden creates an intimate tone with an image of two women holding each other on a balcony. Two particular photographs by David Seltzer counter the male gaze. In Untitled, African American Woman (1990), Seltzer positions a woman so that the camera participates in a shared rapturous experience with the woman. In the second photograph, Untitled, woman wearing windmill hat (1998), the subject is made absurd rather than sexualized with the choice of clothing and the strange hat.
The etching Woman with Bowed Head (1905) by Kathe Kollwitz presents beauty despite weathering due to age. Harold Feinstein captures Girl on Cyclone (1952) capturing the image of a youthful girl, her unadulterated joy contrasting the aforementioned woman’s somber expression.
Two Japanese prints, Fox Woman (1980) by Gekko Ogata and Mother and Child (1900-1910) by Eiho Hirezaki show a coquettish woman with an animal symbolic in the Japanese culture, and the tenderness of motherhood respectively.
As African American artists themselves, both Romare Bearden and Mildred Howard provide invaluable perspectives. Bearden’s Pepper Jelly Lady (1980), inspired by African American craft and shapes, depicts a simple rural scene at dawn. Island People on Blue Mountain by Howard develops an ethnic narrative by taking back the image of a dark-skinned woman in Victorian dress. Howard places her across Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, a historical refuge for slaves.
Description and image selection by Lillie Snortland ’18.