At the Bronx Museum of Art, the most evocative exhibition was that of Joan Semmel‘s A Lucid Eye. Upon walking into the display room, one feels exposed. The place, sparsely furnished, with stark walls of white, bathed in a soft light, on a deep mahogany floor, seemed to command attention and all the familiar trappings of a museum exhibition, such as glass cases, flamboyant frames, and excessive descriptions were missing. The feeling was disconcerting, because the “clothing” that usually wraps art exhibitions were gone.
We are forced to look at Semmel’s creation raw: in the sense that the artist had looked at it, without all the trappings of display, as if it was still in the studio. The room had no doors, seemingly inviting all those who couldn’t bear the honesty to leave. The portraits, all of the artist herself, stared either at the viewer or a faraway direction. Although some were not very flattering, they all seemed to communicate the same nonchalant pride, just as if saying “this is me, with all my wrinkles, gray hairs, and aging body. I admit that I have many faults. I may not be the prettiest woman in the world, but I accept myself, and you should also accept me for who I am. I am confident that you are attracted by my work. After all, you can’t take your eyes off of it!”