My work draws from my early career working in fashion advertising within a male dominated industry. In mythology muses were goddesses who served as the symbol of the arts + sciences. I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the muse, as the source of artistic inspiration and how the “goddess” is presented and how beauty is truly defined.
We live in a society of endless images coming at as at a rapid and relentless pace; images that carry with us infinite signifiers and impressions of what is truth and what is fantasy. My work is a response to art history and the made-up personas of women as seen through the male lens.
My art originated out of a passion, or one might say – obsession, in tracing the most recognizable paintings of women in art. And what I discovered was that the most archetypal portraiture of women is actually created by men. As an early feminist myself, my work calls into question the theory known as “the male gaze” which is defined as the act of depicting women, and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual prospective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer. I wanted my work to be all about the reversal of that.
I work in a meticulously laborious process of collecting, scanning and deconstructing endless images of women taken from the canon of art history. I transfer these images onto a transparent material, which I then deconstruct, into seminal fragments; the ambiguous eyes from Michaelangelo’s portrait of the Mona Lisa is suddenly combined with the discernible features from Picasso’s famed portrait of Marie Theresse-Walther who is now fused to the torso from one of the eroticized works of Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele. My work invites the viewer to take a deeper look at the Muse and perhaps take into question the existing constructs. By extracting images from their original context I offer up another vantage point in which to perceive beauty. One that lies independent from a male oriented society. By layering transparent reproductions of female subjects portrayed by the most iconic and powerful male figures in art history, my work offers the viewer a look into the layers of history and a timeless ideal of beauty. Another core element in my work is the incorporation of my own image into each composition, as yet another layer. By inserting myself, I empower myself as much as the viewer to challenge the false constraints that have usurped a woman’s place in society.
Sheryl L. Rubinstein
I cannot expect even my own art to provide all the answers – only to hope it keeps asking the right questions.