Why is Brassai’s guy with the slicked back hair so infatuated with himself? What’s so compelling about Matisse’s striped chair? And isn’t there something missing in Manet’s very formal picnic scene? Kathy Grove cleverly presents us with our beloved paintings and photographs from the history of Western art, all with something missing.
It’s so simple: the artist has organized the women to walk out of the picture. What a radical idea. Kathy Grove has worked for years as a expert retoucher. She can seamlessly make the lady vanish and leave us bereft without her – the mother, the Madonna, the temptress, the muse. We hardly know how to think about what is revealed in her absence, what’s missing or what is so odd about the resultant image. Kathy Grove rather subversively teaches us a lesson about the discrepancy between the central role of women in our most beloved images and the absence of women in our history as it is written. She calls it the presence of absence. Without the pivotal female figure we are forced to contemplate just how women have been perceived throughout our history – absent and without a voice.
In a retouching twist, Grove also turns her attention to Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother,” whom she transforms into a glamorous model. Gone are the wrinkles and dirt. The worried look morphs into one of mild concern. We are so accustomed to the perfect polished face that when we look at Grove’s New Migrant Mother, again we hardly know what happened. Grove has laid the trap, and we must admit we may even prefer the Hollywood version.