Exhibition Review: Strength in Anne Collier’s Tears
By Emma Coyle
The door to the Anton Kern Gallery on 55th Street is glass and already the works of Anne Collier can be seen hanging on the white walls. The first of the three floors is open and images from her series “Crying (Comic)” and “Tears (Comic)” fill the space. The frames are larger than life and the comic book images are so enlarged that the individual dots of color can be distinguished. Natural light streams down and illuminates Collier’s 5th solo exhibit with the Anton Kern Gallery which has been open from April 12th and is closing on May 19th.
The exhibit is a remarkable critique of women, but more specifically the way that women are portrayed in pop culture. The artist takes the opportunity to reclaim those images (tears running down cheeks, lush eyelashes fluttering around Bambi-like eyes) and make the observer pay attention to the hysterical nature of those tears while imbuing them with an almost sexual energy. The tone of the work is set here. Collier takes these women and replaces the male gaze, which somehow becomes a looming and almost physical presence. It seems remarkably relevant to the conversations happening right now in the media on increasing the role of women in producing and critiquing work.
On the second floor of the exhibit, the first work seen is How Do You Think Others See You and it shows a hand holding a pencil and hovering over a quiz measuring self esteem. It feels like it could be found either in therapist’s office or as part of a Buzzfeed quiz. The point of the pencil seems ready to circle the middle column entitled “moderately respected”. There is a sense of safety in taking that middle road. It suggests an indecisiveness that connects thematically to the perceived emotional instability of women and asks the viewer to think about the relationship between safety and stability. Standing there it is impossible to not start answering the quiz and realizing that the answers each person would choose have more to do with outward perception than with the way they see themselves.
There is a click and a whirr as the 35mm slide show image from the piece “Women With Cameras (Self Portrait)” changes over to another selfie taken by a women. Each image is personal and often shows the details of someone’s life, messy bathrooms and disheveled bed linen. This is the way women see themselves in privacy without an intended audience. There is a charm to it, and it is almost bittersweet in comparison to the many images seen in the gallery before coming to this one.
Following the sign upstairs to the third and last floor of the exhibit, finally there is a blending of photographs of women and photographs of comics. It becomes almost a thesis statement for the exhibition. Models are crying alongside the detailed tears of the comic book women. Here Collier abstracts the images and by doing so, she makes the viewer question the way women’s emotions are perceived, she takes a culturally assumed weakness and makes it the strength of her work.