Grossmann’s new works address the role performance plays in the assumption and persistence of gender identity in a postmodern world. The emotional and vulnerable nature of these portraits ‘play’ with erotica, using the assumption of the voyeuristic gaze and the socially acceptable expectation of female behavior as a starting point. Grossmann’s dramatic and deliberate display of the highly sexualized parts of a woman’s body through the raising of skirts, removal of blouses, or in some cases, the addition of bits of real doll’s clothing implies a studied reflection on normative gender identity in relation to the sexed body. But they move beyond a simplistic reiteration of submission and exploitation where beauty is definitive of value. Grossmann’s emphasis on traditional concepts of femininity through costume and apparel actually produces a critique of such judgments.
Though Grossmann’s subjects are not like men, they are equally unlikely women, and seem creatures of an alien sex, parodying both masculinity and femininity simultaneously. Divesting the Madonna, the angel in the house, of her mystique and allure, Grossmann suggests even the most innocent of women are more composite and complicated creatures than any simple image allows. There is a genuine resistance to objectification in Grossmann’s women that defeat any simple understanding of ‘the gaze’. Her women are confident in their bodies and in their sexuality, they invite glances and return them through expression and gesture and thus contravene the idea of ownership and commodification of the female body as the ‘woman on display’ ultimately transforming them into potent images of female empowerment.
Angela Grossmann is a Vancouver-based visual artist. Over the last two decades her paintings and collages have been the subject of more than 20 solo shows in Canada, the U.S. Europe and Japan beginning with the Young Romantics Exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery (1985). The Art Newspaper (June 2006) included Grossmann on a list of 100 artists who have most influenced students at art schools in Britain (culled from 11 leading British art schools). Recently her work has been featured in three Vancouver Art Gallery exhibitions including Unreal that showcased her miniature surrealist paintings.
Grossmann’s work has been the subject of numerous scholarly articles including: Princeton Press: The End of Innocence: Picturing Her (Dr. Loren Lerner) Le Mois de la Photo: Memoires and Testimonies (Dr. Martha Langford) Hobo Magazine: Alpha Girls (Sean Starke): Flesh for a Fantasy (Danielle Egan), Canadian Art Magazine: Portrait a Toughs (Deborah Campbell).
Written by Dr. Lynn Ruscheinsky – Art Historian