Visible for a Change at the Lyman Common Room is an exhibit of lesbian art, or rather slides of 160 pieces of art. Although the works compiled are thought-provoking, the slide-show format undermines the exhibit's potential. As a result, the varied and rich collection of often ignored work is encased within an unsatisfying and frustrating show.
One cannot appreciate the works when bombarded with them in rapid succession. More importantly, the slide format diminishes the potency of the individual pieces. Slides communicate no sense of a work's scale, texture or dimensions. The work itself and the effort to display such a wide variety of lesbian artists is commendable but the pieces deserve more consideration than the slide format allows.
Collected on the basis of common sexual orientation, the pieces share little else. The works displayed range in medium from sculpture to painting, weaving to photography, presenting more than 90 women artists. While the majority highlight women and relations between them, there are also landscapes, abstract sculptures and documentary pieces, to name a few.
Women are the only subjects in the portrait genre. Significant settings or texts often emphasize their traits or potential. In contrast to the tradition of their genre, these portraits possess political relevance. In refusing to depict women as sexual commodities, the works stand in marked contrast to prevailing media imagery.
A particularly worthy example is the photographs by Laura Aguilar from the Latina Lesbian Series. The stark straight-forward shots of women are contextualized by scrawled self-descriptions by the subject. These images and their accompanying text celebrate the achievements and strength of the women they depict.
Althoughs the portraits display the particular perspective of women artists, the landscapes of nature scenes could be painted by artists of any social group. One piece of this sort is Christina Schlesinger's The Long Good-Bye, representing two moon lit trees at the edge of a body of water. The painting is harmonious and powerful in its use of color, with heavy layers of contrasting blue, yellow and green, creating a disturbing night time scenery.
Among these several pieces are a group of photographs which document protests scenes. These pictures more than anything else in the exhibit put the artwork within the political realm. As these pictures flash between sculptures and prints we are reminded that this is an exhibit of lesbian art, highlighting a particular marginalized group's means of expression.
Overall the show lacks cohesiveness. Nothing unites the pieces besides the common gender and sexual orientation of the artists. And the difficulties incurred by the mode of presentation--the jarring switch from one set of slides to another--heighten this disjunctive impression. It is a shame that these compelling pieces must be viewed through the lens and with the timing of a slide projector.