Superwoman 1973

Kiki Kogelnik, Superwoman, 1973; Gift of the Honorable Joseph P. Carroll and Mrs. Carroll

Kiki Kogelnik, Superwoman, 1973; Gift of the Honorable Joseph P. Carroll and Mrs. Carroll

Kiki Kogelnik’s paintings from the 1970s, including Superwoman, engaged with feminist perspectives on the representation of women’s bodies. In particular, she addressed the body’s ubiquity in advertising.

With characteristic deadpan humor, Kogelnik drew her figures in an imposing, larger-than-life scale. The hard-edged outline of Superwoman against a monochrome background makes her appear powerful yet two-dimensional, akin to a cartoon or comic book character.

The X shape formed by the open scissors echoes the woman’s confrontational pose. Kogelnik often rendered her figures with unsmiling faces and hollow eye sockets or dark sunglasses, making them appear somewhat fearsome.

Superwoman is likely a self-portrait. Kogelnik often wore flamboyant clothing, including aviator caps and large sunglasses such as those sported by the figure in this painting. A slightly earlier self-portrait by Kogelnik is nearly identical in composition to Superwoman. That print shows the artist holding scissors and straddling a stack of cut-outs.

Kogelnik often used scissors in her art to create stencils and vinyl silhouettes. Images of the artist holding scissors allude to her own power to manipulate figures and images by literally cutting them out.

National Museum of Women in the Arts