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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Catherine Howard 

Catherine Howard's "Courting Love & Violence" was specially commissioned for the Clarion Content's holiday party celebrating the Rodney Derrick Art collection.

All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

It is black paint on white gessoed canvas. The women are pin-up girls of an ilk a little bit more raunchy than your average Vargas girl1. The men are soldiers from outside our standard mental imagery as well. No G.I.'s or Doughboys here, rather they are soldiers of the Apartheid regime.

Howard deliberately juxtaposed these suggestively dressed women and their bodies with soldiers who represented the sovereignty of the nefarious. One cannot help but mix the violence with the sexuality. This is Howard's admitted intent. She believes it mirrors the imagery and actuality in our modern society where violence and sexuality are constantly part of the same brew. Cutting stencils and posing the actions of those involved gave Ms. Howard an opportunity to literally play with her creations like dolls. This metaphor, too, was deliberate, Howard believes it is not much past the time that little girls stop playing with dolls, when men begin to look at them differently.

In our society, permission to look leer is largely granted only to one gender. Thus men are often willing and able quote the proverbial, "I'm married, not dead. Of course, I am still allowed to look." Whereas women who look at men in the same way are castigated as sluts, whether they follow through on their lusty glances or not. Our society holds that the look of wanton sexual desire is normal male behavior. The look wanton sexual desire is improper female behavior. Howard's work lashes out against these strictures.

Night of the party
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

Sexual objectification is inherently violent. Violence is implicit in the directionality; the what I to do "to" you, rather than the what I want to do "with" you. The object is used, subject-subject relationships are mutual, subject-object relations are unidirectional. The objectified is not a participant in a relationship, but rather a tool for use. In the context of human sexuality, the objectified learn that one's body is a tool for other people's benefit. Self-image becomes distorted, bent, misshapen.

Afternoon light
All photos courtesy of Scenes from my Lunch Hour

Howard pared down her figures to the few picture here from an original thirty. She has worked extensively with body imagery in her previous art. You might remember the Clarion Content covered her collaboration with The Duke Center for Eating Disorders at the Carrack Gallery. Howard's figurines suggest the beginning of a tapestry or comic book. She says there is more of the tale to be unfolded in future images.

Catherine, we look forward to it.

1Vargas girls are iconic WWII pin-up girls. Originally commissioned for Esquire magazine, they were frequently painted on the sides of military planes.

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Catherine created a wonderful and unique visual experience which is also highly functional as it diffuses the light through the semi-sky lights which was smashing into many of the paintings in my loft. As the outdoor light from day and night change, the nature of the subjects change and seem to move as well.
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