There are times when I feel compelled to examine my own work as a female journalist, and see if I am truly representing women as thoroughly as my feminist nature should require me to. Sadly, when I examined my numbers, it didn’t turn out so well.
In my year with The Badger Herald, I, a supposedly fair journalist, have sourced men 23 times and women 5 times. When I have interviewed women, they have largely fallen into normative categories for the gender — singing songs about love and broken hearts. I’m not asking the graphic design department to create a pie chart for these statistics out of respect for my own sanity, but this self-analysis illuminates one feature of women’s representation that She Presents, Yeonhee Cheong’s artistic collection, combats.
Formerly a merchandise buyer and fashion designer, Cheong’s maturation into middle age inspired the collection. These influences are seen throughout. The series of “Caption” letterpresses look as though they stepped off the page of a fashion cookbook, while the watercolor paintings are composed of vivid colors one would expect from an avant-garde textile.
Ekphrastic poetry readings at the Chazen will bring enthralling perspective of visual artsEkphrastic poetry, consisting of poems inspired by visual works of art, is an ancient greek tradition. On Dec. 7, the Read…
The “Caption” series in particular features images of women other than Cheong herself. These women are taken from different backgrounds and Cheong explores their psyches in each portrait with a caption.
“Observing what women and others wear has been a part of everyday activities. Somehow, I always enjoyed watching them and figuring out what they tried to signal more than dressing up myself. Becoming a middle-aged woman and the changes it accompanied brought me out of the game of anxiety and let me distinguish other people’s ideologies from my thoughts,” Cheong said.
Women finally remembered for scientific contributions through ‘Unidentified’ exhibitThroughout history, there has been a tendency to exclude and forget certain groups of people. This influenced the Wisconsin Union Read…
Cheong is successful in determining women’s ideologies in these works. For example, an image of a Toddlers & Tiaras-esque beauty queen comments on the “training” she is given to present in an extremely feminized image. The first figure in the letterpress series paints quite a different image with Sandy, an androgynous 19-year-old activist breaking the traditional feminine mold.
In the second room of the gallery, a video art piece titled “Letter P” plays. The recording depicts Cheong seated with changing text to her right. The words all contain the letter “p” in some way. But the exhibit is much deeper than a Sesame Street depiction of a letter like this. Each “p” seems to express the anxiety Cheong holds in presenting herself and her work. Each word morphs into another nervously, like “play” and “display” later giving way to “impress” and “oppress.” Cheong acknowledged this anxiety still plays a part in her creativity.
“I am still anxious because creative art demands me to be a pioneer and visionary, but I’ve learned to embrace the uncertainty,” Cheong noted.
A new exhibit in Chazen’s Garfield Gallery explores relationship between science fiction, literatureThe Chazen Museum of Art is set to bring fantasy and science fiction works from the Korshak collection to the Read…
Cheong’s view of misogyny is not limited to just women. Throughout the collection, references to a “professional” husband are made, insinuating that society views a man’s success upon his ability to provide for his wife and family. The most striking of these comes in “A Professional’s Wife,” a watercolor painting where Cheong’s physical body is portrayed by a series of contained plants looking over her son and husband. Her husband seems cold in contrast to the warmth of Cheong, lending to the constant cultural stereotype that men must be straightforward and not frivolous, like women are supposed to be.
“Despite all the feminist efforts, misogyny that also oppresses men has not gone.” Cheong said.
The Arts + Literature Laboratory provides an intimate background for Cheong’s works. With viewing hours occurring only during periods of daylight, the space’s natural light provides a beautiful, simple feeling to the works of art. Exposed wood and stone paneling add additional elegance to the gallery.
Experiencing this collection is an introspective way to spend a chilly winter day in Madison. I toured the works alone and found solace throughout the two rooms, eventually absorbing and reflecting the experience while “Letter P” played. Cheong noted the water color self-portrait series and the “Caption” series are both not yet complete. She anticipated creating a men’s version of the “Caption” series next.
Whatever she presents next, it is sure to be a continuation and expansion on her great current work.
Yeonhee Cheong: She Presents is displayed at Arts + Literature Laboratory until Feb. 21. Gallery hours are available from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Additional hours are available by appointment. Admission is free.