Handling subjects as delicate and personal as pleasure and love, Ghada Amer shows that it is possible to resist a conventional representation of women in art. Some of her iconographic references are drawn from the literature of porn and reveal women’s bodies as they are displayed for a heterosexual male audience. Clearly, in Amer’s work, art and pop culture overlap.

What she contrasts with high art, moreover, is a medium considered artisanal— embroidery—which she employs to represent these unseemly women engaged in their delectations, as she deliberately foregrounds the threads left behind by the “handiwork.” This female pleasure and leisure express the artist’s desire to merge a content and style in order to re-examine the criteria that are used to define artistic quality. Taking works from the canon as her starting point, the artist observes the idealizing narrative construction of Western art history, indulging in a conventional presentation of an image of women that satisfies a voyeuristic gaze.

Born in Cairo in 1963, Amer spent a number of years in France and studied fine arts in Nice before moving to New York, where she now lives. She has exhibited widely from the Brooklyn Museum of Art to the Centre Pompidou. Thérèse St-Gelais is one of the country’s leading authors of books and exhibition catalogues on women and art.

Thérèse St-Gelais
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
88 pages, 20 col. ill. 8.5 x 6.5 in hardcover