Thursday, March 8, 1990 to Sunday, March 31, 1991

    Sinus pudoris/le voile de la honte/curtain of shame is a series of installation pieces that re-repesent in a tangible fashion how certain women have been perceived in the form of partial histories or accounts which focus on a part of the body and thereby obscure how we might view the woman within a larger context. The artworks deal with how women’s bodies are stereotyped, taken out of context, and put on display. A concern of the artist is to expose how woman is presented as part of man. The exhibition will include light-boxes, lithographic and photographic prints, drawing components, wooden shelving, texts and a bookwork.

    I’ll begin with a mistranslation. From feminae sinus pudoris (Linnaeus, in 1785, describing the enlarged labia minora of certain black African women) to “women are without shame”. Is this due to careless mistranslation? Misspelling and wrong case endings common in eighteenth-century scientific latin? A racist and sexist interpretation? Does Stephen Jay Gould (The Hottentot Venus, 1985) correct the error by proposing “curtain of shame”, or does he add to this account of a mistranslation? How to reconcile the poetic, morally charged resonance of “curtain of shame” with the objective, clinical term it purports to describe? Sinus: a cavity, curve or old vs, “curtain”: suggesting concealment as well as possible revelation before a viewer. Pudoris/pudenda/genatilia vs. “shame”: implying a burden of guilt. Why wasn’t “modesty” (decorum or appropriate behavior) used in place of “shame”? “Le voile de la honte”: my own translation, intended to complement “curtain of shame”. “Voile” relating to velum, reintroducing the reference to skin obscured by “curtain”. I retain the imposed sense of “shame” (“honte” rather than “pudeur”) although “pudeur” would bring us back to pudoris. The four components of this exhibition do not serve to illustrate sinus pudoris; they do range in emotion from uneasiness or embarrassment to a profound sense of hsame. Originating in individual texts concentrating on one or more selected parts of a woman’s body, the work situates women behind their respective curtains of shame.