Exposed: The Female Lens in a Post-Identity Era?

September 7, 2017 to December 9, 2017


On behalf of The California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO), I am pleased to welcome artists: Jo Ann Callis, Sandra Klein, Andréanne Michon, Sant Khalsa, Arden Surdam, and Gay Ribisi. The photographs that we have chosen to exhibit speak to the issue of identity and assist in launching a dialogue about the concept of a possible post-identity era as well as introducing an important element of empathy.

The concept behind this exhibition is to reveal and discuss varying ways in which individuals or groups are identified, beyond the ‘old school’ categories of race, religion and gender. As a society, we are attempting a peaceful resolution to the culture wars by trying to be respectful to everyone. Is that possible? Can we make one group content without offending another? Does that mean we are in a Post-Identity Era?

Since identity is such a core element in communication, and in being human, this is a complex concept to comprehend. During the last 50 years in the USA, we’ve seen profound demographic and cultural changes. As a nation we are divided and the culture clashes are as intense as ever. In light of recent events, I hope it doesn’t take another World War to remind us of what really matters in life to bring our country together again. Unless we’re invaded by aliens, we are all human first and foremost aren’t we? Shouldn’t we celebrate the human qualities that bind us?

“The strange power of art is sometimes it can show that what people have in common is more urgent than what differentiates them” - John Berger

The exhibiting artists are presenting us with a vast variety of imagery that offers a layer of identity they’ve created beyond their gender, race and religion. The images take us on a journey into unexpected identities while still acknowledging the common thread they all share; that of being a female photographer in California. In other words, beyond the common thread each artist has an artistic expression where they impart something they are passionate about and identify with, which gives us an opportunity to introduce the important subject of empathy.

Simply put, empathy is our inherent ability to perceive and share the feelings of another. It enables us to connect with ourselves and others while awakening us to our connectedness as parts of a greater whole. When we examine art from different perspectives and observe the emotions it evokes, we become more skilled in the language of emotions and our understanding of it in everyday relationships.

Approaching the art in this way, reveals that these photographs all speak to the issue of identity and yet in extremely different ways. In searching for a common thread we find a human connection within ourselves. This awareness of our connectedness calibrates and harmonizes our values, attitudes, and behavior. A necessary step toward empathy is paying attention. It takes patience and practice to consider and articulate what we think and feel. The artists in this exhibition are offering us an opportunity to connect with the beauty that surrounds us in everything from ordinary objects to the sublime in nature.

Thank you to the artists, and all of you, who make this all worthwhile.

- Lynn Farrand, Senior Curator

This exhibition is generously sponsored by the The City of Thousand Oaks and The Lake Avenue Group at Morgan Stanley

Jo Ann Callis is considered one of Los Angeles most influential female photographers working today. CMATO’s audiences have the opportunity to view works that Jo Ann has only recently begun displaying, her early color photography works (circa 1979). Her ‘fabricated’ photographs seemed designed to elicit associations about domesticity and submissive sexuality. Read more >> 

Sant Khalsa might say her work reflects her artistic intimacy with nature and her lifelong passion of activism. Her imagery has a quiet controversy that slowly empowers the viewer to breathe deeply and reflect in the present moment. In her works, humanity is identified with nature; boulders, shrubs and brooks become centerfolds. Read more  >> 

Sandra Klein’s works evoke a curiosity either about her view of the world or her magical mindset. There is a map to her personal history in her art that shows a personal struggle and vulnerability that an audience can empathize with. Her works draw the observer into a creative narrative; real or imagined, a journey down the rabbit hole to search introspectively begins. The focus of Klein’s work reaches beyond physical body and investigates the universe of the mind. Her work asks the viewer to open the shutters of the mind and focus on the composition of what lies within. Klein carefully layers imagery of mental health, spirituality, and the challenges of the human body as it ages. Read more >> 

Andréanne Michon engages viewers through her large format photographs, video and mixed-media installations. Her work encapsulates the viewer with their physical presence. Some of her photographic works are positioned upwards and span across the gallery walls, surrounding the viewer as if they are walking on nature trail. Her works are large images of dense groves, meant to exaggerate the contrast of nature against a thumbnail frame of a smartphone. Her intention is to widen this narrowed view encouraging us to break our dependence, or need, for a digital identity. Read more >>   

Gay Ribisi debuts her tender portraits exploring SSBBW (Super Sized Big Beautiful Women). Her monumental contemporary fertility goddesses provide a platform to discuss body image and the historical change of ideal beauty. Privately collected, CMATO has the distinction of presenting this series to public audiences for the first time. Read more >> 

Arden Surdam’s series “Hold Your Breath,” creates mysterious forms that capture our imagination while simultaneously making us uneasy. Her mysterious creations elicit limitless identities in which to indulge. The artist invites us to imagine endlessly by leaving her works untitled. Read more >>

Exhibition Essays

A Working Definition of Post Identity

Post-identity can be defined as: taking on a perspective without focusing on cultural difference, specifically in regard to race, gender, and sexuality. To apply “post-identity” to the art world would mean to look at art and the creators of art without focusing on race, gender, and sexuality.

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Exposed: Curator’s Note

The timing for this exhibition couldn’t be more appropriate as a call to adopt another attitude towards all of our differences. The essence of Post-Identity requires fluidity between the categorical norms society uses and an open-mindedness. Using empathy to see each other without judgement or expectation is the new norm of our aesthetic standard.

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To uncover the meaning of this complex term “post-identity,” we must first dive (however briefly) into its root term: identity. Although we all have personal identities that we claim or that are placed upon us, there are larger societal identities that exist in the politicized context.

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