In two upcoming painting series, Felice House, assistant professor of visualization at Texas A&M, will counter the centuries-old Western art tradition of portraying women through a “male gaze.”
“My work — large-scale portraits of capable, positive and accessible female role models — is a counterpoint to the passive, over-sexualized, female representations found in art history and modern culture,” said House. “Depictions of women redefined in a ‘female voice’ give women, young and old, an opportunity to see themselves not as commodified objects of male desire, but as real people defining a new era of equality.”
House’s quest to broaden the portrayal of women in art is taking place with the help of a three-year, $15,000 Texas A&M Arts & Humanities Fellowship, which recognizes extraordinary creativity and scholarship and provides faculty with a supportive environment to advance creative and scholarly work.
House has already completed some of the pieces in the first series, “Sum You Some Me.”
In the series, House portrays women in front of landscapes, creating an image of beautiful, but not commodified, subjects.
“The paintings create an interpretive space for a viewer to project and reflect on his or her own sense of self, nature and wholeness,” said House, who aims to create a total of 16 to 24 pieces in the two series.
In an earlier group of paintings, “Re•Western,” House placed women into iconic scenes from Western movies to call attention to their limited access to power in the popular mythology of the American West.
“By flipping the gender and retaining the same visual signifiers, the series conveys female heroes, speaks to women’s access to power, and challenges the viewer to examine their internalized notions of archetypes, mythology and power,” said House.
In “Re•Western,” she transformed the solid masculinity of the typical cowboy into a portraiture of femininity, wrote Houston Press art critic Abby Koenig. Pieces from the series were exhibited at the Wright Gallery at Texas A&M and galleries in Georgia, Colorado, and New Mexico.
House, who joined the Texas A&M faculty in 2012 after earning a Master of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Texas, has created work that is part of public and private collections and has earned numerous fellowships and scholarships.
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More from House's "Sum You Some Me" series.