The Theater

Since the invention of photography, our expression toward art has expanded. People used photography not only to document the observed but also as a tool to express their fantasy, desire and ideas, which don’t exist in reality.  In order to create those works, artist’s commonly use aspects of theater, which include, drama, character, costume, gesture of character, songs, story and empathy from viewers. These represent crucial devices, which control perceptions and are often based on stereotypes.In the music video, Ignorant Oil (2009), Kalup Linzy attracted viewers by his presentation of himself as a melodramatic diva who is reflective of popular culture.  Linzy successfully created a theater that is not only about costume and appearance but, which also brings drama and a storyline to his performance. 

“Ignorant Oil” (2009) Kalup Linzy


This exhibition focuses on the artists who utilize both theatrical effects and the viewers perception as tools to lead the viewers from nineteenth century to today.

"Puzzle made of postcard of Sarah Bernhardt in variety of roles forming portrait of Bernhardt as L’Aiglon” after 1906


Sara Bernhardt, the most famous and fashionable stage actress during nineteenth century, played various dramatic roles including Queen Elizabeth, Hamlet and Cleopatora.   In addition to her talent as an actress, Bernhardt attracted audiences with her appearance in different costumes and characters on each performance on the stage as depicted on this piece. 

“Cover” (2002) Tomoko Sawada


Sawada, a Japanese photographer takes self-portrait in variety costumes and presents her self as different characters in the photographs.  In this photograph, Sawada dresses up in fashion that is poplar among Japanese teen age girls and pose stereotypical manner that young girls often do in their photograph.  She find her possibilities to create a fantasy in the photographs which does not exist in reality by changing her appearance. Sawada describe “ My appearance could be change easily but not my personality” she fascinates the viewers with all characters she performes and made us fantasize about the personality in the photographs.

“Shoes” (2006). Liam Sullivan


In this comedy music video, Sullivan played multi characters. Sullivan sings a song as the main character, Kelly in the video, a stereotypical defiant American teenage girl.  Being played a stereotypical character comically by  opposite genders based on their observation emphasize on specific age gender’s stereotype idea in the society  and  transform  to a comment from third person.  Sullivan’s monotone emotionless vocal on its simple beat,  girls’ wild and obsessive shoes shopping scene is ridiculous and humorous.  Because of those combination plus video’s accessibility reflects all elements of today’s materialistic poplar culture.


"Rrose Selavy” (1923) Man Ray


Man Ray photographed Marcel Duchamp as Duchamp’s female alter ego Rrose Selavy.  Like Sawada used specific pose in her photograph, Duchamp gently holds the scurf with his left hand emphasizes his fingers, which suggests femininity. In doing this, Duchamp as s male mimics feminine expression and plays with the notion of his female alter ego.

“Self Portrait” (1920) Claude Cahun


Cahun challenged the traditional notion of gender identity by presenting herself with a shaved head and by wearing male clothes.  Her standing pose with her fist clenched and witha serious facial expression removes  her femininity. She succeeded to create a new reality or  imagined self by taking on the traditional perception of the male role.    

Self Portrait (2009)


In order to create sexual fantasy in my art, I decided to become a male which lead sexual fantasy in stereotypical manner in the photograph.  As Linzy invited and seduced viewers to his sexual  fantasy in opposite gender, I explored my sexual fiction as opposite gender.  In order to create the fantasy, I adapted standing pose of  Ewan McGregor  from the movie poster of “Trainspotting”(1996) ,  with boots on to emphasize the stereotypical western male.  Moreover,  I situated my self  in the space with art objects to give an impression of traditional male nude model in western art history.  My intention is to create a sexual fantasy that suggest unclear gender based on the body and stereotypical pose.

"The Dream” (1860) Oscar Gustave Rejlander


 Rejlander, a Swedish-born photographer studied painting and lithography in Rome. He created a narrative scene which he inspired by late Renaissance art and contemporary cartoons from the newspaper. The small human figures in front and the reclining man makes viewers imagine what the man is dreaming about.  Moreover, because of this reclining man’s gestures of his closed eyes and the placement of his hand suggests to viewers an erotic narrative, which brings to the photographs story of more than just man sleeping.


"Mr. and Mrs. Turtledove New French Cook” (1902) .William H. Raw


This is detail from a stereograph which was a popular form of image in the late 19 century.  The viewer used a hand held device into which a sequence of stereographic cards would be inserted.  Each card contained two images, which would be viewed at the same time,  giving the effect of a three dimensional picture. The images were often a narrative focusing on humorous domestic situations..  In Mr. and Mrs. Turtledove New French Cook the Raw created a scene of Mr. Turtledove’s flirtation toward his new young female cook.  When Mrs. Turtledove found out about them, she asked the cook to leave and hire an older cook as a form of revenge and jelously. The use of the Stereograph, which was a popular format of the time and the common themes easily drew viewers into the storyline.

“Seven Last Words of Christ” (1898). Fred Holland Day


 In this work, Day depicted him self as Jesus with a scene of the Crucifixtion. He made a sequence of his head shots with facial expression. By presenting the suffering in sequence, viewers can imagine the scenes more realistically than from a single image or painting.  Day’s performance,  brings the viewer to a level of empathy on the suffering of others. 

“Be Without You” (2005). Mary J Blige


In this video clip, Blige sings about love she does not want to lose, and the feeling she wants man to understand. The video shows a pain be in love and its  merodrama between man and woman with her  emotional performance followed by her ecstatic vocal.    The depiction of passion and pain in this music video  connects those of Day’s Crucifixion, so does Linzy’s music video.   

4 thoughts on “The Theater

  1. Just to elaborate more about the self portrait piece, the way you are holding your breasts really makes it feel as if you have very defined pecks. It is very successful in making me ask the question male or female?

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