Thirty-two artists, all women, contributed 38 pieces of art on a single subject: Men. This is the shape that John Cheim, curator of The Female Gaze, Part Two: Women Look at Men wanted for his exhibition. The first part, which came out in 2009, was Women Look at Women. Like that one, Part 2 features paintings, drawings, photography, and sculptures.
Some works are exactly the kind of turnabout one might expect—focused entirely on the penis. “White Nob” is a plaster sculpture of an erect phallus, which stands as the centerpiece in the gallery at nearly four feet tall. It is glowing white and somewhat grotesque. Another work is just a double-ended stone dildo. A third disembodied penis, unrealistic in its proportions, hangs from a fishhook at its tip. A black and white photo shows only the point of penis-in-vagina penetration.
A few cast men in the role of an erotic figure, such as “Paul Rosano in Jacobsen Chair” by Sylvia Sleigh as well as “Raspberry Beret” by Cecily Brown. “Ben” by Celia Hemptom reduces its subject to just an anus and a scrotum. Some of them mock the turnabout, like Catherine Murphy’s “Harry’s Nipple” which depicts in striking scale a man’s nipple seen through a torn t-shirt.
There are cartoons and boudoir photography, photo-stories, and paintings of bathroom selfies. Taken as a whole, it is thirty-two artists holding up an understandably bitter mirror to the way men have alway
s painted, sculpted, and photographed women in movies, television, advertising, porn, and all manners of art.
“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting “Vanity” thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.” – John Berger
The Female Gaze, Part Two: Women Look at Men is on display at the Cheim and Read Gallery in Chelsea, NY through September 2, 2016.