Joanna Thomas

Is Joanna Thomas just being a smart-ass when she grafts a perturbed red pair of women's lips onto an iconoclastic black-and-white image of Ben Franklin, or is she saying something more profound? In "Lion Devouring Rabbit & Other Collages," the Ellensberg artist amusingly embellishes 19th-century French engravings with contemporary, colorful images deftly cut from modern magazines to create small but subversive montages. What her efforts are doing to the value of these antique prints, Thomas isn't sure. "In effect, I'm destroying them," she admits. "But on the other hand, it's an unwitting collaboration." What she does know is she's adding a modern feminist's unrepentant take on old male visions of the world (with no special deference for 'old masters' like Delacroix, Poussin, or Watteau). It's almost the equivalent of graffiti. Yet Thomas' compositions demonstrate both wit and restraint. Within the humor, though, there is a recurring theme: the lot of women and how they have been depicted traditionally and how, in many ways, their roles and socially imposed limitations have not been redefined all that much in the last 200 years. In A Young Woman Accidentally Glimpses the Patriarchy, we see the back of the head of a primly coiffed woman in the foreground facing a nude man in the distance who is quite smugly displaying his wares. (The woman doesn't seem that impressed.) In Young Fishwife Laments Her Decision (pictured), the derogatory sexist term is rendered absurdly literal by a well-placed can of sardines and other fish accoutrements. One wonders what sort of bad decision this young woman has made—there are so many possibilities. In another, a vaguely troubled Marilyn Monroe contemplates a giant hot dog while waiting for a ferry, rendering the original intentions of the print quite irrelevant. As a thematically appropriate final flourish, Thomas wryly presents her work on skirt hangers. SUE PETERS

 
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