February 17, 2015

Over-Looked opens at the Lewis Center for the Arts

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University will present Over-Looked, an exhibition of collaged paintings by senior Elise Rise. The project examines the body within rapidly changing ideas of gender, sexuality and voyeurism. The work will be on view February 23 through 27 in the Lucas Gallery at 185 Nassau Street. A reception will be held on February 26 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

Rise, from Richmond,Virginia, is majoring in art history through the Department of Art and Archaeology and earning a certificate in visual arts at the Lewis Center. She is also working as an intern in the photography department at the Princeton University Art Museum. Her senior thesis project and exhibition bring together her studies in art history with her artistic work in the studio.

Her works in the exhibition use both digital re-alteration and manual cut and paste processes that superimpose painting, collage, reproduction, and stock images into a hybrid pastiche. “My works steal faces from traditional modernist patriarchs,” explains Rise, “while simultaneously borrowing composition from the unorthodox portrayals of sexuality in the genre of American scene painting by artists George Tooker, Paul Cadmus and Jared French.

collaged painting

Detail of painting by Elise Rise; photo by Justin Goldberg

Rise states that her work references a modernist past where the female body was the artistic battleground of the avant-garde male artist. As an example, she notes Edouard Manet incited scandal with his famous painting Olympia, who meets the male gaze and asserts control of her sexuality by willingly offering herself to her male voyeur. Soon after, she explains, Paul Gauguin copied Olympia with Spirit of the Dead Watching, where he transformed Manet’s Olympia to his Tahitian child bride, Tehura, whom he offers to the male voyeur as an object of sexual fetish.

While referencing this earlier era, Rise’s work also draws from the later innovations of Tooker, Cadmus and French, who challenged ideas about gender and sexual orientation in their work. By inserting classical figures into 20th century public spaces, she notes, the figures cease to be classical and become homoerotic. By placing female faces on homoerotic male, effeminate male or female bodies, Rise explains, her paintings recognize that the politics of the body keeps adding new genders. “These are no longer wholly female bodies,” she contends, “nor is the gaze wholly male.”

Rise’s choice of collage is intended to further activate the sexual complication and rapidity of contemporary life. “By maintaining the transitory elements of collage through the entire process,” she explains, “faces can be moved or exchanged instantly and stock images can be cut and pasted or replaced instantly.”

“In a digital age where we are assailed with images of the body representing new ideas of gender, sexuality and voyeurism,” states Rise, “We are at once entranced by the politics of the body, as well as exhausted by the relentless voyeurism which our own bodies must continually endure.”

The Lucas Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.

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