JOAN RYAN

ARTIST'S STATEMENT
The impetus for this body of work came from an image search “mask of power/girls” on the Google search engine.  The result of this image search created a void between my vision and understanding of power and that being present through media technology. As I continued my search with word “power mask girls” ninety percent of the images were of kittens, bunnies, fetish carnival mask and the witch. Only after three pages did the image of Wonder Woman and Hillary Clinton appear. Conversely, using “power mask for boys”, showed images of superheroes; Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, Darth Vader, The Hulk, and so on. These images, a representation of physical and moral strength were a glaring contrast to those of earlier searches.) When the image result on my searches “power girl”, and” mask for girls” resulted in the over sexualization and fetishized images of young girls, I was challenged by the impact of contemporary culture on concepts of identity as it relates to gender.  The paintings and mask in this exhibition work to redefine what I believe are images of power within pop culture; media technology and self-gender identity.

Much has been written on how media technology influences perception of behavior, thought and identity. While both social media and technology emphasize pop culture, fetishism and image commodity of the female gender, this emphasis has seeped into both toys and play manifesting in on development in concepts of self. These queries have sparked my interest in the interpretation and revision of gendered influences from popular culture and how play has potential to intersect with iconography, narrative, and imagination. This exhibition focuses on Mask as an object of popular cultural in the formation of gender identity.

Play is a liberating experience, releasing us from a dominating structure and restoring one to a more profound experience of being in the world. Material culture studies have included useful explorations of histories and cultures surrounding not only popular manufactured objects (mask) but also of the object as art. My work is a bridge from fine art to visual culture, inviting viewers to see works of art and toys move into a dialogue around gender, body image, and aesthetics. With paintings in the exhibition having a corresponding mask allowing viewers to explore their identity and the representation of power within. 



CV