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Unframed: Janet Allinger, Alissa Kaplan, Lori Markman, and Leslie Nemour


The University of San Francisco's Thacher Gallery is presenting Unframed: Janet Allinger, Alissa Kaplan, Lori Markman, and Leslie Nemour through March 28, 2004.

In "Unframed" four California artists present portraits of contemporary women, re-examining stereotypes such as the lady driver and mail order bride with a witty pop sensibility.

Janet Allinger's large acrylic paintings on canvas and digital prints are Lichtenstein-inspired. Each portrait takes on a female "type" to make fun of contemporary culture and femininity. Allinger incorporates her graphic design background through strong outlines and comic-strip compositions. Allinger lives in Santa Cruz and has shown her work throughout California.

Alissa Kaplan's small-scale, colorful mixed media monoprints demonstrate her interest in working with diverse materials. Thematically, they explore both the whimsical and dark side of childhood memories, perceptions of women, and doll imagery. Her works have a dream-like, narrative quality. Kaplan lives in Oakland, has shown her work in San Francisco and Berkeley, and was the recipient of a Watershed Residency in Massachusetts.

Lori Markman's large oils on canvas tell the story of an auto accident in which she was seriously injured. In this work, she explores how to present movement and bodily trauma through time in an art form that is most conducive to the frozen moment. Markman lives in Van Nuys and has had solo and group shows throughout California.

Leslie Nemour will be presenting oil paintings from her "envelope" series. Inspired by the Mexican novela (soap opera) and filmmakers' storyboards, her work presents narratives painted on wooden panels that have been sectioned off like envelope flaps. The pieces in this exhibition focus specifically on mail order brides and elements of communication. Nemour lives and teaches in San Diego and has shown her work throughout California.

A panel discussion about women in the arts featuring "Unframed" artists will take place on Monday, March 8, from 1:30-3:00 p.m. in the University Center Faculty Lounge. Paula Birnbaum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, and scholar of women artists will moderate. This event is in honor of International Women's Day and is co-sponsored by USF's Women's Studies Program.


Unframed: Artist Statements


Janet Allinger, Santa Cruz

I have been an artist as long as I can remember. Growing up in Michigan, my parents encouraged me to be creative. One of my passions then and now is cartooning. A form of graphic art for reproduction, comic art tells stories through the use of pictures and words. Only in English, does the word used for comics suggest humor. Though sometimes known as "funnies" as well, comic strips and books are not necessarily comical. My motive for creating digital prints lies in my passion for computers and desire to keep my graphic design skills fresh. Working first on the computer image prevents me from going directly to the canvas, which can be very sketchy (no pun intended.) Instead, I sketch my idea by hand then scan it into my computer. Using my favorite illustration program, I redraw the image to ensure clean lines and play with color until I am satisfied. With cartoons, I keep my original hand drawn lines for a slightly unfinished look. I then trace the image from a black and white print out onto the canvas, painting it with unperceivable brush strokes so the painting will look similar to its digital twin. (right: Allinger, Nicky, 2002, acrylic painting, 30 x 30 inches)


Alissa Kaplan, Oakland

My work has the sensibility of childhood memories. In adulthood these memories have become tainted. Images of dolls hold something creepy; the circus isn't quite what I remember it to be. I have always been interested in exploring and working with diverse materials: creating functional and sculptural ceramics, sewing quilts using traditional techniques but with a modern subject matter, working with etching and monoprints among other types of printmaking. In this series, I advance my exploration of mixing mediums, layering Xerox transfers and monoprints, pencil and gouache, as a way to make a path into the visual story. Through experimenting with different mediums, there are always commonalities of theme and subject: perceptions of women, images of dolls, and the circus. (left: Kaplan, Deer Girl, 2003, monoprint and mixed meida, 15 x 11 inches)


Lori Markman, Van Nuys

The works presented in "Unframed" are part of a series of 11 paintings titled "March 24, 1999." This is the date that I was involved in a serious automobile accident in which I was badly injured. The series present a symbolic portrayal of that entire experience, not just the accident itself, but also my thoughts and feelings about the entire event. In "March 24, 1999," I explore the notion of "motion through time" in art, rather than the "freeze one moment in time," combining different styles of painting from realism and abstraction to expressionism and pop/comic, different emotional and psychological states, and even different scenes, both in the same painting, as well as through the entire series. We have layers and layers in each moment of our lives, and I have tried to communicate this multifaceted existence in this work. (right: Markman, March 24, 1999 (Broken), oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches)


Leslie Nemour, San Diego

These "envelopes" thrive on the art of storytelling, which merges fictional and non-fictional worlds via the inspirational influences of Mexican novellas (soap operas), cinema, and storyboards. The combinations and connections of images and experiences in the envelope format emerged while producing a body of work exploring the phenomena of the contemporary mail order bride whose relationships with American men begin with letter writing. The universal symbolism of the envelope represents personal and public histories, a form of communication which is both subjective and objective. These visual letters, layered in content, dramatized and personalized in the translation, are in response to both external and internal issues. The themes within the paintings relate to the many associations with letter writing, suggesting hidden secrets, intimate musings, travel, romance and memories. Simulating the back of an envelope, the partitioning of the rectangle into four triangles also implies other divisions -- between people, geography, and cultures. (right: Nemour, Random Hand, 2001, oil on panel, 35 x 78 inches)



By Paula Birnbaum, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Visual and Performing Arts Department


For centuries images of women living out circumscribed roles have saturated the art world as well as the media. We are all too familiar with such popular images of woman as commodity: slender, sexually available, and defined by her relationship to others. In "Unframed," four California artists engage in a powerful social critique of modern femininity by telling compelling stories about women's lives. Whether challenging the beauty myth or confronting painful memories and bodily trauma, each artist uses narrative structure to explore different pressures placed on women to conform to a culturally specific ideal. Their work makes a vital contribution to the ongoing history of contemporary art that questions societal demands that have dictated the way in which women have been represented in visual culture.

Janet Allinger offers witty images in the form of contemporary comic heroines that parody the 1960s Pop art movement led by Roy Lichtenstein. While Pop art brought the mass culture of comic strips and advertisements into the realm of high art, it featured slick nudes, pin ups, and images of women as sex objects that remain inaccessible to most women. In Allinger's large acrylic paintings and digital prints we meet a cast of characters ready to challenge prior female Pop icons. Ray Gun Girl is the modern woman warrior, armed with munitions and short, red hair that protrudes like flames: "She's rough, she's tough She kicks ass." Motorcycle Girl also demonstrates her power through mobility and speed, while nonetheless satirically flaunting her femininity as part of her popular appeal: "wear lipstick with SPF!"

Lori Markman's large oils on canvas also engage with pop sensibility -- as well as employing realism and abstraction -- to tell the story of an automobile accident in which the artist was seriously injured. Her storyboard format effectively confronts the narrative challenge of representing movement and the passage of an intense sequence of events that altered her life and bodily perceptions. Each painting chronicles the artist's emotional state as the accident transpired, from the visceral shock of Impact and its subtle layers of visual collision, to the explicit vulnerability and physical and emotional pain of Broken. Reminiscent of Frida Kahlo's paintings about female bodily trauma, Markman's work is invested with a haunting complexity and powerful narrative quality.

Leslie Nemour's oil paintings from her "Envelopes" series also use narrative structure to offer commentaries about women's complicated choices and strategies for communication and connection to others. Inspired by the Mexican novela (soap opera) and filmmakers' storyboards, each rectangular painting is sectioned off into four triangles "to simulate the divisions on the back of an envelope." In Love From Wyoming we meet a mail order bride who is confronted with a history of her own correspondence and the prospect of travel and romance with a faceless American stranger. The power of Nemour's work lies in her ability to tell stories about the divisions between people, genders, and cultures through the unique structural device of the envelope.

Alissa Kaplan's small-scale, mixed media monoprints also look at perceptions of female identity and choice through a critical lens. Her images of isolated girls, dolls, and circus performers posed before flat, decorative backgrounds evoke a dream-like quality associated with the Surrealist movement. The Surrealists were known to have celebrated the powers of the femme-enfant of woman-child, an enchanting muse whose youth and naiveté allowed her pure connection with her own unconscious. For Kaplan, however, such imagery of secluded and vulnerable looking girls and dolls evokes the dark side of her memories of what it means to grow up female in America.


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