Behind the mask

By Ruth E. Kott, AM’07

“There’s a phrase that comes out of feminist theory: femininity and masquerade,” says Kat Griefen, executive director of New York City’s A.I.R. Gallery. “That is really what Emma is playing on with her photography.” Griefen, with chair of the University’s Department of Visual Arts Laura Letinsky, has cocurated an exhibit of Emma Bee Bernstein’s (AB’07) photography, at the DOVA Temporary Gallery February 5–27. Bernstein, an art and art-history major, exhibited her Masquerade series for her senior exhibition—”kind of a more sophisticated, more thoughtful version of girls playing dress up,” explains Griefen, who attended a New York high school with Bernstein. All the photos in this series are self-portraits, trying to create a “new kind of female gaze,” says Griefen, as opposed to the male gaze often discussed in feminist literature.

Bernstein committed suicide in Venice on a 2008 internship with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and the impetus for the exhibit was to focus on her contributions to the art world and to feminism. It includes 30 photographs, mostly from Masquerade, although a slide presentation curated by Antonia Pocock, AB’07, shows work from her other series. Bernstein’s photographs and writing also appear in a book available for viewing at the show, cowritten with her friend Nona Willis Aronowitz: GirlDrive: Criss-Crossing America, Mapping Feminism (Seal Press, 2009).

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