Feminist Quandaries by Ellen Hochberg

"I was not put on this earth to be invisible" by Ellen Hochberg
“I was not put on this Earth to be invisible” by Ellen Hochberg

Two new Artscapes installations examining identity and gender have opened at the Woolworth Windows. Now on view through August 21 are “Boxes” and “I was not put on this Earth to be invisible”, by Ellen Hochberg. These are two distinctly different types of works on the theme of feminism, one as seen through the eyes of a young girl, the other a conceptual piece about the gender stereotypes grown women face. The result is a visual “conversation” between the two.

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Don’t box me in – detail from Ellen Hochberg’s “Boxes”.
Detail from "Boxes" by Ellen Hochberg.
Detail from “Boxes” by Ellen Hochberg.

The “windows have not only a feminist theme [but] also the theme of identity,” says Hochberg. “Boxes” is a lab-like white space with a row of light monitors bearing labels such as “straight”, “white” and “middle aged”; the floor is covered with neatly placed dark blue and clear ovoid shapes that could represent counters or statistical markers.

Hochberg says that in conversations she had with other female artists the term “boxes” kept coming up to describe the sense of confinement that women and people of color feel at being labeled by “people [who] can’t see beyond those boxes.” In “Boxes” they are reduced to mere labels and, perhaps, sheer numbers.

Her second installation, “I was not put on this Earth to be invisible”, poses a more open-ended question about the status of women. It features a young girl (mannequin) on the cusp of entering a world where millions of young women “are there but virtually invisible….more likely than boys to be uneducated, to be married at a young age, and to be exposed to HIV/AIDS.” The adolescent faces a wall covered with picture frames that at first appear empty, but actually hold faint images of women. In front of her face is a treatise on feminism. A school desk with books stands off to the side. Will this young girl have an education to tap her potential, or will she remain a shadow figure like the women on the wall?

Hochberg mines her own daily experiences as a woman for her artwork. For a show in Stockholm, Sweden, she created a quilt from “individual paintings that were done one a day over a few months’ period,” forming a visual diary. Stay tuned for the next installment in this artist’s life and work. ~Lisa Kinoshita

Ellen Hochberg at the Woolworth Windows, S. 11th & Broadway, through August 21, 2014.