Elizabeth Heyert, The Idol
Exhibition at the Palazzo Mora during the Venice Biennale
Opening May 11, 2019
Elizabeth Heyert, Untitled, 2019.
NEW YORK — New York-based photographer Elizabeth Heyert will premiere seven works from her new series, The Idol, at the Venice Biennale in May 2019. Selected as part of Personal Structures, a group exhibition curated by Global Art Affairs Foundation (GAA), a Dutch non-profit organization, and hosted by the European Cultural Centre (ECC), Heyert’s work will be shown at the historic Palazzo Mora.
The Idol is inspired by the problem of the representation of women, centered on the question: What makes a woman an idol, an object of fascination and worship? Heyert pairs visual artifacts from classic Hollywood with photographs of historical statues of the Virgin Mary. Mary was the starting point for this project, with her image perhaps the most ubiquitous in the western world. Traveling to cathedrals and churches throughout Southern Spain, such as the Cathedral of Malaga, the Cathedral of Marbella, and smaller churches in Seville, Granada, and surrounding towns, Heyert concentrated on capturing the exquisitely realistically-rendered faces, most dating from the seventeenth century. She discovered a remarkable similarity to recognizable mid-twentieth-century film stars, prompting the realization that the male fantasy of the archetypal woman seems to have remained unchanged over the course of many centuries.
By juxtaposing images of Mary with those of Hollywood stars, Heyert interrogates the Madonna-Whore dichotomy. Permeating both art history and, more broadly, visual culture as a whole, this dichotomy divides women into two opposite categories: the pure and virtuous and the depraved, sexualized and wicked. Heyert seeks to disrupt the impossible standard of the ideal embodied by Mary by stripping her of religious signifiers - her elaborate crown, rosary beads, the baby Jesus often seen in her arms - seeking to show her simply as a woman, rather than a religious icon.
The myth of the “bad” woman is captured in four film posters, showing Joan Bennett in The Woman on the Beach (1947), Diana Dors in The Unholy Wife (1957), Rita Hayworth in The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 (1960). The taglines scream of the danger of seductive, wicked women, with warnings like “I’m No Good” and “you know nothing about wickedness.” Additionally, the image of Marilyn Monroe in the 1962 LA Times announcement of her death, emphasizes how we can elevate the women we worship only to destroy them, and then love them even more once we no longer have them.
Heyert also created a diptych of a color photograph of Mary alongside a text in the style of a formal manuscript. On close inspection, this is revealed to be a list of hundreds of offensive words used to denigrate women, a provocative and timely reminder of the ways that women are often viewed and also treated in everyday life.
“I wanted to explore the idea of what it means to be a woman who is idealized and worshipped. Why do women try, against impossible odds, to live up to someone else’s vision of perfection? Most of all, why do we elevate the women we most admire to unattainable heights, and then demean or destroy them when it cannot be sustained?” Heyert comments.
The Idol is part of Personal Structures, an exhibition which includes the work of over one hundred and fifty international contemporary artists working on the topic of Time, Space and Existence. It is organized by the GAA Foundation and hosted by the European Cultural Centre in the center of Venice, at the Palazzo Bembo, the Palazzo Mora and the Giardini
The Palazzo Mora is situated in Sestiere Cannaregio, between the San Felice Church and Canale di Noale. Named for the Mora family, who was influential in Venice from the sixteenth through to the eighteenth centuries, the sixteenth-century facade now houses fifteen exhibition rooms with frescoed ceilings, a beautiful terrace facing the canal, and an entrance with a garden.
About Elizabeth Heyert
Born in New York, Elizabeth Heyert’s passion for photography led her to London, where she earned a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Art, studying closely with British photographer Bill Brandt. She later returned to New York where she developed a successful career as a photographer of architecture and interiors. After 20 years working with various clients such as Ralph Lauren, Cartier, American Express, and Tiffany & Co., along with snapping shots around the world for publications including The New York Times, New York Magazine, Vogue, Elle Decor, and Architectural Digest, Heyert closed her commercial studio in order to focus on fine art photography. Her work is represented in international public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Getty.
About the Global Art Affairs Foundation (GAA)
The GAA is a Dutch non-profit organization that aims to heighten the awareness about the more philosophical themes in contemporary art, architecture and in culture in general. Founded in 2002 in New York, the GAA has been based in Leiden, the Netherlands since 2009, with a branch in Venice, Italy. The foundation has organized exhibitions, symposia, and art projects in Europe, the US, and Japan, including large exhibitions each year during the Venice Biennale. All these exhibitions are free of charge for all visitors. In addition, GAA publishes extensively in art books and magazines. The GAA works in close cooperation with the curators Valeria Romagnini, Lucia Pedrana, Sara Danieli, Elena Volpato, Alessandra Valle, Bianca Bonaldi, Anais Hammoud, Alesia Varnaeva and Rachele De Stefano.
About the European Cultural Centre (ECC)
The European Cultural Centre (ECC) is a space for artistic expression, research, and experimentation. The ECC provides the resources and conditions for creative endeavors from all fields including visual art, dance, theatre, music, literature, and architecture. It presents projects that link the various practices with the city, artists, and visitors from across the globe. The ECC also hosts creative professionals in residence in order to provide assistance for research, organizing art events, exhibitions, training, and lectures in various disciplines. They work with a network of curators, universities, festivals, and foundations along with both cultural and scientific institutions. Regional offices for the ECC are located in Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, and the United States, while the global office resides in Amsterdam.
DATES: May 11-November 24, 2019. Preview May 9-10, 2019.
LOCATION: Palazzo Mora, Cannaregio 3659 30121 Venezia
HOST: European Cultural Centre / Global Art Affairs Foundation
ORGANIZERS: Valeria Romagnini, Lucia Pedrana, Sara Danieli, Claudia Piovan, Bérénice Freytag, Bianca Bonaldi, Rocco Schenkel, Elena Volpato, Alessandra Valle