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Well, I had no idea. Did you know that International Women’s Day is on March 8th and that every March, Women’s History Month is celebrated to “highlight the contributions of women to history and contemporary society”? Lucky for me, photographer Nancy Grace Horton knew and she clued me in. On March 11th, 2014, Horton will be giving an artist talk about “Ms. Behavior” her current photography exhibit at The Griffin Museum satellite gallery at Digital Silver Imaging in Belmont, MA.
Nancy Grace Horton is the most effective kind of feminist, sly and funny. She focuses on a personal facet of women’s history – one’s self regard in our media-driven culture – training her lens on the “absurdity of what we do to ourselves”. With her sharp wit, she prods the viewer gently, urging awareness. Her best images catch me off-guard and hint at some deliciously insidious narrative. For instance, what is the well-heeled woman wearing a mink holding? There is a clue in the title, “Snap Shot”, but then we have to ask, why is she holding a shotgun?
Each of Horton’s photographs is a vibrant vignette, with attention to palette and imaginative composition. By casting her subjects in the attire and environmental trappings of the 1950s, Horton creates wry visual ironies. Many of her protagonists are hilarious, like the woman about to be liberated from her ironing board in “Blast Off”. Some are menacing, like the woman adorned in a sexy, patriotic get-up, brandishing a flaming cigarette lighter in “Independence”. Others seem poignantly trapped in their constrained domiciles, like the woman with her hair clothes-pinned to a drying rack in “Pinned Down”.
Each of these women invites comparisons with our own circumstances and therein lies Horton’s assumption-altering snare. Her message is further accentuated by the use of vintage clothing and hues; the viewer teeters between a nostalgic reminiscence of simpler times and the underlying knowledge of trade-offs women have made in the effort to attain gender equality. Horton’s suggestive images are cloaked in lively, cheerful colors. And I think this is her real signature: ebullient irony.
“Ms. Behavior”, Nancy Grace Horton’s shrewd observations of women’s tribulations and triumphs runs through March 14, 2014. For directions and hours for her show and for her artist talk, go to: http://www.griffinmuseum.org/blog/the-griffin-museum-at-digital-silver-imaging/