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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog

Monday, March 4, 2019

HEAR US! AND THE CHALLENGE OF BEING HEARD, by Mary Eldridge

Artwork New World, from the Hear Us! exhibition at Riverside Arts Center, March 2019

For unintended reasons, the visual exhibition "Hear Us!" at the Off-Center Gallery next to Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti offers a perfect example for Women's History Month. Among the many excellent works there can be seen a piece entitled New World, which has been hung above a doorway in the gallery. The placement is odd, at best. But there's a terribly familiar, unspoken message there. By hanging it above the doorway it has effectively lost its power – it's been domesticated like interior decoration. It's not only that the viewer can't see the details in the piece – the PERSIST index card perched on The Thinker's foot, and the particulars of each individual representation – but this remove has reduced it to its colors and the frilly frame. It's become simply pretty. It's eye candy. But useful – see how it bridges the space between the two walls? Yes, it 'made sense' visually, superficially, to place it there. Just as women's usefulness has made complete sense to the patriarchy. The reason the piece was made has been taken from it. The power it was meant to have has been diverted. There is no "hearing us" in the choice to hang it there – there is only confirmation that stealing our power can be a sneaky, subtle thing at times. It can happen even within a women's empowerment exhibition.

The Arts As Healing Foundation Inc. show Hear Us! runs through March 2019, Thurs.-Sat. 3-8:00 p.m., 64 N. Huron, Ypsilanti


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