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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Women’s art exhibit captures definitions beyond the normative

Published: January 24, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc., Featured

In one painting, a little girl plays with a gun nearly her own size, a clear commentary on the ravages of gun violence. In another piece, a ballerina with short hair reflects the fluidity of gender roles and an awareness of transgendered identities.

The pieces are part of “Off-Kilter,” an exhibit by the artist Karen Moss that opened Tuesday in the Kniznick Gallery, sponsored by the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. Moss’ work, which has been shown nationally throughout her career, is rich in creativity and authenticity. She uses humor, irony and satire in her mixed-media pieces to fully articulate the powerful messages of her work. Her pieces are diverse, in that she relies on newspaper clippings and tulle as well as techniques such as ink drawing, painting and collage.

Originally from Boston, Moss completed a BFA in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1966 and received an MFA in 1974 from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She has taught art throughout Massachusetts.

Moss’ artwork intrigues the viewer in large part because it is not merely appealing to the eye. While the pieces are bright in color and engaging, they also tug at our analytical thinking skills and challenge our powers of observation. Her most recent exhibit, “Off-Kilter” is no exception.

It is impossible to tour the new exhibit without feeling a little unbalanced. Each piece is a compilation of Moss’ thoughts and criticisms of society. Because of the abstract nature of the work, however, there is much room for interpretation.

In several pieces, to comment on genetic engineering, Moss uses characters who are neither human nor animals but a combination of the two. She also comments on “eating disorders, youth violence, homelessness, consumerism and environmental devastation” throughout her work. 

Her vivid imagery is highly accessible, drawing the viewer in and making her subject matter quite clear. The nuances of what she is saying, however, depend on the viewer’s own perspective. The art speaks powerfully, but its scope and intention rely on the individual who stands before it.

The Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center is a research facility where scholars, students and faculty members study interdisciplinary issues related to gender. The center frequently hosts art exhibits, lectures, film screenings and celebrations. Not only do scholars conduct research at the center, but there is a large focus on activism as well. Members of the center share their work and findings with each other and find significant overlap in their wide array of work. “Off-Kilter” will run until March 22 at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center, only adding to the center’s goals of examining these formidable and important issues.