New panels in process: Derrida, Foucault and Marie Vernet

This series of paintings recapitulates arguments about the male gaze–my gaze as an Anglo male, heterosexual painter, and the gaze of many others–made by postmodern philosophers like Derrida and Foucault, and feminist postmodernists like Helene Cixous, 40 and 50 years ago. 

As an example, the painting of Marie Vernet uses an image of her wearing a complex, floral bonnet in an early photograph. Marie Vernet Worth, wife of the “father of haute couture,” Charles Frederick Worth in 1853, is regarded as the first fashion model. Looking at her smile, I wonder about her thoughts and feelings at being adorned in luxury by her husband, in service to his business and his reputation amongst the Paris elite at the time, all while being held as chattel. I wonder at my attraction to her image, and at my repulsion from the power differential between her invisible husband, his minion the photographer, and her visible face. I wonder at the decades that have passed since this analysis was provided for the world, and the televised relationship between the most qualified Presidential candidate in recent memory and her opponent, the least qualified candidate for public office in recent memory. 

The analyses of the mechanisms of sociopolitical power made by Foucault were clear, deep, complex and useful, and yet decades later the fundamentals of that power are little changed. Is Foucault a hero, or a faded rose? Is Derrida a liberator, or an obfuscating charlatan, as many complained during his period of fame in the ’80s and ’90s? 

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