Video Work | Photo/Installations | Documentary Projects

The Boston Globe, Wednesday, March 22, 2000
Two Bunting artists' searching explorations of self and society

by Nancy Stapen
special to the Globe

Established in 1960, the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College has provided the proverbial room of one's own to nearly 1,000 creative women. In addition to the scholars, researchers, writers and activists who have received Bunting fellowships, there is a distinguished roster of artists, among them painters May Stevens and Francis Gillespie, sculptors Mags Harries and Marianna Pineda, and photographer Elsa Dorfman.
Women artists, who are often juggling the needs of family, low-paying jobs and creative work, are nurtured by the Bunting's gifts of time, financial support (the yearly stipend is currently $28,500), studio space and collegial support and stimulation. But particularly helpful is the Bunting's philosophy of individual growth, described by Mary Ingraham Bunting, then president of the college, in 1972: "Educational programs for the most part are designed as racetracks and may the best man win. The Radcliffe Institute offers its members a place to grow, each according to her own design."
While Rosenblum deals in the realm of the deviant, Denise Marika, who will be a Bunting fellow next year, is interested in the extraordinary nature of the commonplace. In an installation titled "Projections" at the Akin Gallery, Marika combines the high-tech with the primitive - for example, video images projected on animal hide. She explores the dichotomy between advanced technology and intimate, private ritual.
"Projections" consists of three separate works. In "Hang" a video image of a naked woman is projected onto an animal hide that hangs from a metal bar, one of several suspended from the ceiling. The woman lunges repeatedly for the bar; over and over we hear her labored breathing, see her tensed, straining muscles. The image invests a mundane action with a visceral sense of struggle and release.
In "Conveyor" glass tubes are nestled along a 16-foot floor conveyor composed of lurid red industrial rollers. Photographic images on the glass tubes, which may be rotated by the viewer, reveal a mother and two children in a variety of postures that alternately express affection or conflict. Here the most basic of human relations intrudes its "messy" gamut of emotions into a barren high-tech context.
The third part, "Caught," addresses the impersonal nature of the art world. For this section one enters the back room to find four white walls - the epitome of the gallery or museum setting, which Marika here equates with a sterile cultural life. Around the corner, projected on a strip of latex, is a life-size image of a naked woman caught dressing. It's an image that brings the discomfiting world of sexuality and shame into the art world's pristine milieu.
One might say that, like Rosenblum, Marika also deals with pathology, but here it is the pathology of a society split between humanist ideals and impersonal social structures.