Wilma Cruise John's Wife (1996) | Art.co.za | Art in South Africa
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John's Wife (1996)

John's Wife: Artist as Subject; Subject as Object explores the notion of identity; specifically middle-aged female identity. The locus of the exhibition is provided by the three nudes, John's wife (yellow, (1995) John's wife (blue), (1995) and John's wife (white) (1995). These are three-quarter life-size figures which each explores a facet of experience of a middle-age woman. Supporting these three works is a number of drawings, prints and artist's books. The exhibition is heavily loaded in terms of the written word. Not only are there seven volumes of illustrated poetry but the drawings contain numerous scribbled notes, musings and observations. In addition each work is supported by a hand-written note recording the genesis of that work.

The exhibition is a personal document informed by a spirit of autobiography. The paradox of being both perceiving subject and perceived object is explored. This irony is inherent in the sub title artist as subject: subject as object. The reference to "wife" alludes to the fact of observing oneself from a distance. The choice of title also refers to a practice, common in the conservative patriarchy of the mining world, of assigning women to rigid social positions. These positions are predominantly defined in terms of marriage; "She is John's wife," being a common form of introduction. Within this socially defined area other questions of identity on the subjective experience of femininity and middle age are explored. (Wilma Cruise,1996).


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