Visual Art

Deborah Oropallo's "George" at Stay ZaZa Art House & Social Gallery

It's nearly 2012 and still women are not represented in art, history and any number of other realms as prominently as they should be. As we slowly remedy that, we do what I like to call "add women and stir."

Until women are fully integrated in our social and cultural history, we will be left with what Deborah Oropallo depicts with stark literalism in her piece "George" -- women superimposed onto the accepted historical and artistic legacy.

In this piece, Oropallo has taken a classic image of American hero George Washington and merged it with a classic depiction of the "ideal" woman. He is prepared for battle, dressed in uniform with a cannon and troops at his side. She is prepared for sex, scantily clad with a riding crop at the ready.

Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, their poses mirror one another. Both are positions of "power." Only one (George's) has the power to change the history of man and the other (the woman's) is there, presumably anyway, to provide pleasure. She has only as much power as an object of desire.

He is a person, named and known. She is an object, stripped bare and indiscernible. Who are you going to follow into battle and who are you going to follow into bed? And, more importantly, who are you going to remember (and respect) in the morning?

Oropallo's work confronts viewers with a single image that is difficult to reconcile. It is too many things at once. It is serious and ironic. It is clever and poignant. It is demanding and shameful.The piece calls into question the commonly accepted roles of men and women, as well as the reinforcement of those roles through the images we see of them.

If we always saw men in their skivvies and women in power suits or other modern uniforms, how would that change our perceptions of the sexes? And if we stopped presenting women's roles only in reference to those of men, how would that change our understanding of women's roles in shaping our world?

Oropallo unflinchingly asks those questions in this image and challenges viewers to answer them with equal candor.

We cannot simply add women and stir. They must have a presence all to themselves. It's not a matter of women's right, but rather a matter of human rights. The whole suffers when not all of its parts are complete.

You can view "George" at the Stay ZaZa Art House & Social Gallery through October 20th. It is part of West Coast Women, ZaZa's most recent collaboration with Turner Carroll Gallery. The show includes work by Deborah Oropallo, Inez Storer and Jenny Honnert Abell. Visit for more information.

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Jenny Block

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