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BATHERS: AN INSTALLATION
July 20 - August 26, 2001
The Public Library in Boulder, Colorado, spans Boulder Creek as it carries snowmelt down from the Rockies to the Platte and Missouri Rivers and on to the Gulf of Mexico. Every summer, people come floating down the creek as well -- on innertubes. With this in mind, I wrapped the library's Canyon Gallery in approximately 150 running feet of continuously sewn bathtowels, on which have been sewn circular images of bathers -- images from the history of painting and its genre of the female nude, as well as black and white photographs from my ongoing series "Studio Men."
Together, the towels and images conjure issues of private nudity and public display in a society where more and more depictions of the nude can be found regularly in print and film, advertising and on television, while at the same time sexual innuendo permeates the air waves. Even in a venue such as a public library, the art-historical painting references I make on the towels can be found amid the stacks, while internet computers provide patrons (including many children) access to pornography. At the same time, the juxtaposition of historic female and contemporary male imagery points to the double-standard long understood in a male-dominated culture, accepting the former as conveniently erotic while avoiding the latter lest it empower women or be considered homoerotic.
Regardless, viewers entered the gallery beneath circus-like arches of towels, much like the innertubers passing along the creek beneath the arch of the library building itself, an arch that can be seen as symbolizing the accumulated knowledge and history of mankind. When the tubers then grabbed a towel to dry themselves, perhaps they left an evidence, a history of themselves in oil or water on the fabric. The towels in the installation attest to this idea as much as to the fact that our bodies are made primarily of water -- one justification for many to take to the sea in these ships of rubber, come summertime.