Category Archives: modern iconography

The Normal Woman

The normal woman as studied and put forth by Cesare Lombroso in the 1890’s.   The notes below are based on Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman by Cesare Lombroso and Guglielmo Ferrero translated and with a new introduction and feminist commentary by Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson.

The Normal Woman is proven to be more primitive than man:

  • Measurements of the head
    • cranial capacity in weight – smaller in women
    • brachycephaly or broad-headedness in size – greater in women
    • dolichocephaly or long-headedness in size – greater in men
    • jaw size – greater in men
    • Measurements of thoracic cavity, cervical and lumbar parts, arms comparing body shape
    • Body hair length in relation to age
    • Weight and Height
    • Viscera, Fat and Blood
    • Measurements of white hair and baldness of middle class Europeans
  • Differences of sensitivity Continue reading

Questioning Positivism

I am conducting an independent research project in preparation for a proposal submission, to Eastern State Penitentiary, for an art installation – my proposal looks at phrenology and female criminology of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.Reaching back in time, as I so often do, looking for the origins of particular societal phenomena that baffle me… I have come across a philosophy coined by Auguste Comte – Positivism. My question is: How does the concept of ‘universality’  cause systematic oppression through the creation of deviance? Continue reading



EVIDENCE: New Photographs by McDonald, Rosenberg, & Smith

William Way Art Gallery,
1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia PA 19107
January 7th – Feb. 29th, 2008

Opening Reception: Friday, January 11th, 6-8 pm

William Way Art Gallery is pleased to present, EVIDENCE: New photographs by Natalie Hope McDonald, Ellen Rosenberg, & Rachelle Lee Smith a photography exhibit by three female Philadelphia photographers.

The exhibit is open to the public in the lobby of the William Way Community Center, Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Natalie Hope McDonald photographs urban and small town landscapes and its people, relying
on natural light, shadow and graffiti to capture lonely, pensive scenes of modern American life. McDonald is a writer and photographer based in Philadelphia. She has exhibited her paintings in group and solo shows. In recent years, the artist began exploring photography as a way to document urban life.

Ellen Rosenberg’s photographs examine a relatively invisible subculture, bodybuilding. The audience is exposed to a world of highly defined muscles, and gender bending ambiguity. Body builders blur the lines of gender. Rosenberg shoots on black and white negative film. To maintain the natural aspect of her work, she pushes 400 speed film to allow the required light to reflect on the muscles and enhance the contrast. The photographs are taken during competitions on stage and do not involve any formal posing or special lighting.

The photos exhibited by Rachelle Lee Smith are from her series – Pride/Prejudice: Voices of GLBT Youth. Youth from across the country were photographed and asked to share their voice, opinions and comments about their experience as GLBT. Each subject handwrites, in permanent marker, directly on Smith’s carefully crafted photographs. In their own words and handwriting, the youth share their stories creating a very intimate and personal view on what it’s like to be a GLBT person today.

The William Way Community Center is a non-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization serving the LGBT Communities of Greater Philadelphia.

City Paper 2007


On The DL
Gender Portraiture Project
by Tami Fertig
Published: October 9, 2007

Laureen Griffin wants to take your picture. Not only that. She wants to
have a conversation about gender norms and stereotypes while setting up
the shot. As part of her ongoing “Gender Portraiture Project,” Griffin —
AIRSPACE’s current 40th Street artist in residence — has created a
temporary photography studio at the West Philly gallery, and is inviting you
to stop in, pose and chat.

Though open to everyone, the project has thus far attracted people who don’t fit in or, at least, don’t think they fit in — a situation Griffin knows all too well. As a kid, she played with Tonka trucks and matchbox cars, climbed trees and made bows and arrows. “I always had to go next door to play with the boys because the closest thing my parents would buy for me was a Barbie camper,” she says. Indeed, the project stems from Griffin’s own desire to come to terms with feeling out of place. And, in the spirit of being open and accepting, she encourages participants to dress as any gender persona and pick any fantasy setting. (“One subject wanted to be seen in the Victorian era,” she says.)

In addition to showcasing several of Griffin’s previous works on paper, the exhibit features six new portraits, framed or mounted on wood panel, with more to be added throughout the month. Though the conversations are not included in the pieces, Griffin hopes to eventually
print or record them. “My goal is to have a critical mass of stories and portraits reflecting gender variations and to show how class, family, personal taste, body type, age and whatever other qualifiers are placed on us affect us,” she says. “I want to inspire dialogue about how societal expectations rule our gender.”
© Philadelphia City Paper

Mantra by Martina Plag

I set certain parameters for this piece; that it be in a medium new to me, that it be in and of this workshop, with the workshop’s participants being integral to its formation, lending their voices both physically and figuratively. I also challenged myself to be self-referential. These pieces are a personal documentation of process and dialogue, a means not necessarily an end.

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