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Annie Leibovitz: Women

Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
Sept 20, 2001 - Jan 6, 2002


No. 5 Mine, Brookwood, Alabama (no date),
iris print

As a photographer of popular American culture for over 25 years, Annie Leibovitz has brought us images that shape, challenge and redefine our popular icons. Known best for her work with celebrities and magazines such as Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Leibovitz continues to capture viewers with her new exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. An impressive exhibit of over seventy large-scale portraits of women from all walks of life; some famous, some anonymous.

Her portraits range from the obvious celebrities and political figures to a portrait of the photographerís mother, a breast cancer surgeon, coal miners from Alabama, and a rap singer. Leibovitz pushes the boundaries of our conception of popular culture with images such as the nude shot of the bearded female performance artist Jennifer Miller, hardly the likes of which you would see featured in Vogue or Time.

The most interesting aspect of this exhibition is the juxtaposition of images and how they work to reveal more of what the artist is trying to say about women. In one case, a photograph of a professional female body builder, with every enlarged muscle glistening, is hung next to close-up, crude and brutal shots of women who were victims of domestic violence. This pairing shows what women are, what women have gone through and what women are capable of becoming. Overall, she treats her subjects as equals, inspite of their social status. Each piece and every woman in this exhibit is an important part of the American female collective.

This exhibition grew out of her book Women, a collaboration with writer Susan Sontag (Random House, 1999) and was organized by the Corcoran Museum of Art.

© Allyn Cantor