“Postures of Power” Exhibit Examines Women’s Footwear and Feminism

Friday, September 28 2012

MOSCOW, Idaho – The Prichard Art Gallery from Oct. 2-7 will feature “Postures of Power: Higher and Higher,” which explores how women’s shoes came to define and redefine the feminist movement.

Through a series of two- and three-dimensional works, including a video, the weeklong exhibit will confront the feminist-feminine dichotomy and scrutinize the conflation of power with choice.

In essence, the work by the artists asks: “If high heels are power, why don't men wear them?”

It coincides with special events celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Women’s Center at the University of Idaho.

The works will delve into women's relationships with high heels and the conflicting messages of desire, power and the perpetual need for constant physical improvement. One effect of such messages is the contested meaning of feminism in the 21st Century. According to third-wave feminist theory, adoption of conventionally feminine postures actually liberates women, who no longer need to compete with men because power already is shared equally. Femininity thus becomes a performance, a masquerade, rather than a necessity imposed externally.

It’s one of the gallery’s ‘WeekSpot’ series, which highlight new media and takes advantage of short-term opportunities for connecting with groups in the community and on campus.

The artists in Postures of Power expose how this argument obscures the mechanics of power, often manipulated through media rhetoric that perpetuates gender-appropriate behaviors. On the one hand, media normalize beauty practices as seductive and pleasurable, while reinforcing the need for constant vigilance against being seen as unattractive; on the other hand, media either ignore or denigrate other forms of feminism and political activism.

“Our ‘WeekSpot’ series has always been a means to facilitate collaboration. The fact that this one corresponds perfectly with the Women’s Center celebrations was serendipity. Having just completed our own anniversary celebrations, to be able to support another organization in their activities is a great way to work together,“ said Roger Rowley, Prichard Art Gallery director.

The exhibition combines works by the Palouse Women Artists Collective, UI faculty and objects from the Leila Old Historic Clothing Collection. Dinah Zieger, assistant professor in the school of journalism and mass media will curate the exhibit and will speak on the topic as part of the Women’s Leadership Conference on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Meanwhile, the Women’s Center is bringing Gloria Steinem to campus to speak on October 4 at the ASUI Kibbie Dome at 7:30 p.m.

This exhibit is free and open to the public. The Prichard Art Gallery hours are: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; it is closed on Monday. The gallery, an outreach facility of the University of Idaho College of Art & Architecture, is located at 414/416 S. Main St. on the corner of Fifth and Main streets in downtown Moscow. Additional information is available at www.uidaho.edu/caa/prichardartgallery.  
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