October 2, 2000
New York, NY / Montreal, Quebec

Devora Neumark Dutch Woman at Large
Artistic Intervention at the Met
November 12, 2000 (times t.b.a.)

212.596.1620 Regine Basha, Cultural Affairs: The Canadian Consulate General-NY
514.282.4186 Devora Neumark, Montreal

On Sunday, November 12, look for a "Dutch Woman At Large" on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Escaped from the canon of art history, this character will inhabit a meticulously reconstructed 17th century dress and roam away from the Met into the park to engage in conversation with you. In response to New York's Franklin Furnace Performance Art Fund's commission to produce a public piece in the streets of New York and with the support of The Canada Council and The Canadian Consulate General-NY, Ms. Neumark (re-)creates this character as a contemporary embodiment of the seated figure in the famous portrait "Curiosity" by Dutch artist Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681), now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (gallery #12). Like many of her previous performative works intending to explore the relationship between the act of viewing and being viewed - the spectacle and the spectator - the audience here becomes as much a part of the work as the artist.

Devora Neumark PROJECT DESCRIPTION "Dutch Woman at Large" 1998-00

This durational street intervention has been made possible with the collaboration of The Franklin Furnace Performance Art Fund, The Canada Council and The Canadian Consulate General (New York). Elements of this work were shown as part of a group exhibition entitled "Fashion Statements" at the Art Mûr Gallery (Montreal) September 10 - October 15, 2000 This work takes after the Dutch genre painting "Curiosity" by Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681). Costume design by Ruth Mills, Milliner, of Ottawa. Costume fabrication by Ruth Mills except for the corset, wool petticoat and satin skirt which were constructed by Edwina Richards, Costumer, of Ottawa Shoes designed and constructed by Joceline Chabot, Artist, of Montreal Antique lace on satin skirt cleaned by Eva Burnham, Conservator, of Montreal Special thanks to consultant Edward Maeder, Curator of Textiles and Costume at Historic Deerfield (MA)

"Dutch Woman at Large" is an engagement with (the representation of) domesticity and the practice of everyday life. It is also a revisiting of Dutch genre painting, specifically Gerard ter Borch's (1617-1681) 17th Century interior entitled Curiosity in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The painting usually hangs in the Metropolitan's gallery #12 as part of the Jules Bache Collection and has been reproduced in postcard form by the Metropolitan in 1991.

When I first thought about doing a work in New York it became clear that it was entirely appropriate to locate the work within the Met, as it was the first and most important indicator for me of art, culture and scale, having been brought there (the word shlepped comes to mind), most Sundays by my mother along with my four siblings. My mother says that in making the long trek by subway and bus from Queens to the museum, she was satisfying her own desire for art and culture and was able to occupy her children for relatively little money -- while providing an access to the world of art otherwise unavailable to us in the Orthodox Jewish world that was my childhood.

My research has focussed on the history and anthropology of Dutch society during the 17th Century, the gender roles and the complex domesticity of that period and the portrayal of such in the visual arts of the time. This research into the dynamics of domestic ritual and practice in relation to public sphere continues from an earlier piece of mine entitled, a truth, a fiction... of sabbath clothes and feeling an imposter now in the Collection prêt d'oeuvre d'art of the Québec Museum.

During Dutch Woman at Large, I inhabit the outfit of the figure in the painting (note the French connotation of inhabit as an article of clothing). I engage in conversation only if approached. My intention is to blur the lines between the passive/active roles of witnessing and being witnessed, theatricality and the performative, subject and object, and portraiture, narrative and storytelling, while activating a place for the seated figure in the painting to participate in the culture around her. Through this work she will be offered a different sort of agency after all these long years of being gazed at and (being limited to) gazing out of her forced pictorial domestic (interior) space. The public will, by extension, is offered a different agency in reception given the curious dynamic created between the painted image of her, my embodiment, and their viewing / participation.

Upon wearing the costume as part of the Montreal exhibition "Fashion Statements", I began to become aware of how much this work is about the internalized and external expectations of the "good Jewish daughter" within the larger North American secular culture and historical constructions. These expectations, like most demands imposed by family and community are scarcely ever achieved. Despite the sumptuous fabrics, the resulting internal anxiety and discomfort is felt as vividly as the artificial shaping of my corsetted body.