Gender, Politics, Power and Image: Art History, revised

Helle’s Belle, from the series GUISE, by Deborah Oropallo © 2007

What should a powerful leader look like — when the leader is a woman? This question has bubbled up to popular consciousness in recent times especially with the presidential political campaigns of Segolene Royale in France, and Hillary Clinton in America.
In a cleverly titled exhibition, artist Deborah Oropallo, plays with the gender/image issue by interweaving images of 17th and 18th century male-based power portraiture with internet images of sexy women in seductive costumes. The series, called GUISE, is on display now at Gallery 16 in San Francisco.
In the accompanying essay, Anna Lucas writes:
In all the prints, the vast symbolism of classic portraiture is employed, raising issues about gender, costume, fantasy, potency, power, and hierarchy. The artist asks, “Does the popularity of fetish fashion stem from the fact that it makes women appear strong and very powerful?”
Lens Culture is pleased to present several images from Oropallo’s GUISE, accompanied by the essay by Anna Lucas, who helped curate a similar show of Oropallo’s work for San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum in 2007.
Oropallo has been one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most influential artists for the past two decades. She has been included in the Whitney Biennial, Corcoran Biennial, and many museum collections including Whitney Museum, SFMOMA, San Jose Museum.

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