Nomi Tannhauser, Artist and curator, was born in the USA, and
lives and works in Jerusalem. Bezalel and Leeds University graduate.
Tannhauser was the Co founder of the Antea art gallery for Women which operated in Jerusalem from 1994-2010.
In her works, Tannhauser explores the intimacy of the body and its significance in a feministic, cultural and political context.
In the painting series that is exhibited in the gallery, "Maidens in Blue", Tannhauser seeks to redefine the relation between the viewer and the subject of the painting. This series is on one hand an homage to the male dynasty of painting and on the other hand an act of defiance on the ways in which women are perceived in art history – an object of desire for the male viewer – alongside an attempt of reconstruction and healing.
In "The maidens in blue" (2014), Tannhauser chose to engage Picasso's famous work from 1907 Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (the maidens from Avignon), a canonical painting that has been elevated to its status mainly because it has been attributed to be the starting point of cubism. It is perceived as a work that embodies the deconstruction and analysing of the body and the object, and the use of multiple perspectives in order to create as many facets as possible, the great attributes of cubist painting. However, the social feministic awakening of recent times, and mainly the #metoo movement has raised many questions about the men who create and their attitude towards women. Picasso is controversial, since he has been a revolutionary painter that according to many in the art world has paved the way to abstract painting, but simultaneously acted in violence towards women – in his private life and in his paintings. The deconstruction of the female body in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon has violent characteristics. The women that are represented in the painting are nameless prostitutes, their faces are contorted in a primitivistic gesture and their fragmented broken bodies induces anxiety in the viewers. What unites the women in the painting is not their shared experiences or unique personality, but the seductive nudity, the male viewer (the bordello's costumer) that in the early sketches for the painting was an actual man, until he was replaced by the phallic triangle, that is directed from the viewer to the women.
The power relations between men and women are a central theme in Tannhauser's works. Tannhauser's search as an artist ranges from painting to social activism and she has taken part in several social struggles regarding women's rights. Tannhauser has dealt with female appearance, body image, and the attitude towards the female body, both in graphic design, and in painting. In 1994 she founded the "Anthea" Gallery for feminist art in Jerusalem. Curating exhibitions in the gallery and in other places has been another way for her to raise issues concerning female body image, the experience of a female body in the world and to find the female voice.
In this series Tannhauser has chosen to paint five naked women, including herself. The women are all connected to Nomi and the art world in different ways. They are not necessarily experienced models, and for some of them it was the first time being represented nude on a canvas. The paintings raise questions regarding femininity, age, nude and more. Nudity is a central theme in the art world. Linda Nochlin has written in her article "Why have there been no great women artists" about the importance of the nude from the renaissance period to the 19th century, in which the careful and prolonged examination of the naked body was crucial to the training of every young artist, and to the ability to create great masterpieces. Until late 19th century women students were not allowed to enter the nude model sketching sessions in most of Europe. The exclusion of women from this crucial stage of training means that women artists couldn't create great masterpieces.
While using the painting modes and characteristics of Picasso and his contemporaries to her needs, Tannhauser attempts to connect the women to their bodies. This connection is not natural in our society that still constructs the naked female body as a sexual object. Tannhauser combines humour and strong colours to create a composition in which the bodies of the women are their own. To establish equality between herself and the models, she chooses to insert her own nude self-portrait to the series. The female nudity in her paintings is not violent or anxiety inducing, it celebrates creativity and seeks healing. The exhibition attempts to display a woman's gaze on the naked women – a gaze that conjures an independent, complexed and complete individual.