Artist uses holography to provoke powerful response

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FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington Art Gallery ushers in the spring semester with the bold work of Harriet Casdin-Silver, a notable pioneer in the medium of holography and a supremely articulate artist-provocateur. The exhibit “Harriet Casdin-Silver: Beauty and the Political Body” is free and open to the public. It runs from Jan. 31-Mar. 7, with an opening reception from 5-7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7.

This exhibition brings together many of Casdin-Silver’s best-known holograms. Her work sometimes fragments the body literally and metaphorically, and sometimes reveals it fully as in her nude double self-portrait as a septuagenarian, “70 + 1 + 2.”

Using the unique realism of holography to provoke a powerful response from the viewer, Casdin-Silver said, “My mission was to help women grow in every way — psychologically, sociologically and in belief in themselves.”

In these haunting, beautiful and often gently humorous nudes trapped in virtual space, Casdin-Silver targets society’s oppressive, obsessive focus on beauty and youth. Throughout her long international career, Casdin-Silver (1925-2008), pushed the boundaries of the medium while challenging the politics of beauty and representation. She was a longtime fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, taught holography at Brown University and held numerous international residencies.

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Early in her career in 1966, she participated in Experiments in Art and Technology’s (E.A.T’s) famous “9 Evenings.” In 1977, her series of Equivocal Forks holograms (metaphors for the female body) formed the spine of “Centerbeam,” a collaborative installation by 22 MIT artists, scientists and engineers at the “documenta 6” exhibition in Kassel, Germany. In 1998, the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Garden mounted a major retrospective of her work, “Harriet Casdin-Silver: The Art of Holography.”

The UMF Art Gallery is located at 246 Main Street in Farmington, behind the Admissions Office. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays and by appointment. For more information, email maline@maine.edu or call 207-778-7002.

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