Why Think Outside the Box When the Walls Can Be Disassembled

by Daniel Warren

Artist Andrea Mary Marshall Illuminates a Feminist Objective Using Only Starkly Opposing Imagery
In October, artist Andrea Mary Marshall debuted her latest collection of self-portraits in The Feminist Calendar 2016. As a reaction to the Pirelli Calendar, the series juxtaposes (no, really) Marshall as she subjects herself to stylized, explicit eroticism and demur, candid contemplation.

By pairing vulgar titillation with restrained clothed images, Marshall points out that sexualization and confidence exist independently of any binary categorizations. There's more than meets the construct, one might say. The work's flawless execution renders its critical argument viable (were the photographs anything but Pirelli-worthy, the satire would fall flat). Consider the obvious parallel to critical examinations of visual media by a male artist like John Baldessari (specifically "Horizontal Women") and within the somber dialectic, there emerges a deep sense of humor. Marshall's physical prowess and technical capabilities, though playfully absurd, contrast with sincere sentimentality, suggesting these disparate representations are not two sides of even the same coin, but the face of an object beyond planar dimensions. The exhibit leaves one with a clearer sense that this society, in its arrangement, systematically dismantles a woman's right to determine her very being.

According to Andrea Mary Marshall, female sexuality and feminism are interchangeable. She's particular about her words, foregoing a full "on the record" interview when she spoke to Flaunt. It's an ethical decision given feminism's construct within a language. The irony, of course, being that in having to delineate explicit language to define woman as equal, an aberrant inequality is again reasserted. Said another way: if equality existed, would rhetoric of equality need be posited, or would the dynamic exist implicitly?

Marshall foregoes such tautological discussion, though, instead presenting herself through self-portraiture in two maximal oppositions. Although simplistic in its final presentation, the either/or exhibition achieves one difficult task of art, invoking new understanding of social relationships outside one's own self (admittedly, the authors of this piece are men).

Timing is everything. The real Pirelli Calendar chose to break away from their half-century tradition of half-dressed models; in 2016, the Italian trade calendar will present fully dressed artists, intellectuals, and athletes shot by the heralded Annie Leibovitz.

“Its equal rights to self determination,” Marshall said, allowing this one line to be quoted verbatim. Again, so careful with her words. As Marshall herself believes an individual defines themselves, she escapes the very words which might then serve to define her. The only suggestion might be to examine the title of the piece. Paired with the dialogue with the artist, the exhibit accomplished its illuminating objective. However, if one observes the work without a particular semiotic boundary, the vast interpretations might culminate in marginal affect.

The Feminist Calendar 2016 will be on display at Garis & Hahn through November 14, 2015.