A visit to the Boca Raton Museum of Art on a recent rainy January afternoon provided another kind of sunshine, Norman Sunshine, to be exact, and his exhibit DAMES, a series of digitally manipulated portraits of 25 influential women, mostly of uncertain age. He created the series by beginning with iPad photos of women powerful both in terms of their wealth and their philanthropic, civic and art accomplishments, many of them in his own social circle. Then he rendered these snapshots into works of art with iPad apps. Large Giclée 57 x 42 inch watercolor prints on rag paper, massed to good effect on the museum’s 2nd floor.
It is exciting to see digitally manipulated photography in the hands of a master, and it’s exciting to see this exhibition in a museum. I also can happily while away hours with an app and a few good photos. Sometimes it seems almost too easy but as Sunshine is quoted in the Palm Beach Daily News as saying, “Everyone has apps. But they don’t have my eye, my emotions, or my sense of composition and color.” Duly noted.
Beyond the technical fascination these portraits held for me, I was entranced by the Dames Themselves. I was not familiar with most of them, although the brief biographies provided for each portrait made it clear that I should have been, given their amazing accomplishments. I kept looking at these women, though, who have made it to the top of their various professions and thought, do they look happy, fulfilled, at peace? A few of them might have, but I was dismayed at the many somber, sad or sometimes contentious expressions. They cetainly looked like they thoroughly understood Yoko Ono’s words, “winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.” To reprise Wordsworth, can perseverance, recollected in tranquillity, work?
Since I am myself of uncertain age, I’m particularly interested in balancing lightness of heart with courageous acknowledgment of facts on the ground. I didn’t find many role models among these Dames. And then, spoiler alert that was not provided at the exhibition—in the same newspaper article quoted above, Sunshine acknowledged that he requested the women not smile when he took their photos. Aha! We therefore can draw no conclusions from these portraits. And so we persevere…