In the exhibition Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century, 80 of this century’s most accomplished photographers depict the multifaceted roles and aspirations of women in contemporary society. Eighty-one photographs, most of which are vintage prints and include many that have never been published, are on view at NMWA from October 7, 1999, to January 9, 2000.
The exhibition takes its themes from the vision of collector Helen Kornblum, a psychotherapist who has for almost two decades studied and supported the work of women photographers. All of the work in the exhibition is from her collection. According to Kornblum, “The subject matter that captured my interest was art about the human condition, issues of identity, relationships…it’s obvious that women live a different experience in the world.”
Women photographers of the 20th century are innovators and independents, breaking both social and artistic boundaries. Quickly recognized as a “democratic” medium, photography was taken up by many women. The exhibition includes works by Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Gertrude Käsebier, Dorothea Lange, Tina Modotti, Ruth Orkin, Cindy Sherman, Hannah Wilke, and Carrie Mae Weems, all of whom have made lasting contributions to the history of art and photography.
The exhibition speaks of the complex relationships among women, their environment, and their inner lives. Through documentary photography, photojournalism, portraiture, still life, self-portraiture, and constructed tableaux, the artists define the world and the self, often giving voice to those who are otherwise not heard and questioning traditional notions of identity.