‘Anonymous Is A Woman:’ Excavating the lost identities of female artists

The VAIS Gallery hosts a solo exhibition by Isabella Saraceni. The work is a reflection on the erasure and representation of the female body throughout history. It will be shown until April 19, 2019. (Rachel Santostefano/The Daily Campus)

The VAIS Gallery hosts a solo exhibition by Isabella Saraceni. The work is a reflection on the erasure and representation of the female body throughout history. It will be shown until April 19, 2019. (Rachel Santostefano/The Daily Campus)

Upon entering the VAIS Gallery in the Art Building, the lighting reminiscent of baroque art immediately captures the attention of the viewer. The paper sculptures maintained a strong presence in the gallery as attendees entered and milled about the room. The solo exhibition, “Anonymous Is A Woman, reflections on the erasure and representation of the female body through history” by Isabella Saraceni had its opening reception on Monday evening.

The project began when Saraceni, an eighth-semester studio art major, studied abroad in Florence and visited the Uffizi Gallery where she realized that there weren’t any female artists represented in one of the most well known museums in the world. This prompted Saraceni to begin her research on these underrepresented artists.

“Female artists of the Renaissance and Baroque era were written out of history, despite being well-known in their time. I started researching their stories and all of their paintings were usually self-portraits because they wanted to show that they could take action instead of being the subject of the male gaze. They were their own subjects and they were taking action in their paintings, usually painting themselves or painting someone else but they were always in action,” Saraceni said.

In the center of the room, the sculptures of the female body were made from paper and some lingered between metal frames while others seemingly moved outside of the frame.

“It’s communicating something powerful and forgotten. I think that’s the overarching feeling I get; it’s powerful but soft,” Aner Bajraktarevic, a sixth-semester communications major, said. “Even the big papier-mache bodies are all elongated and wispy and they feel almost ghost-like in how they’re like dirty or burnt.”

Saraceni commented on how the frames act as a passageway for the sculptures or as a way for them to act on their own terms, outside of preexistent boundaries.

“It’s very beautiful. I think the way she used the fragile paper to build relatively strong structures comments on what she said about these women artists being perceived as weak and easy to hide away,” Emy Regan, an eighth-semester illustration major, said. “It resonates with me as a woman in art and I think she was very successful.”

One of the most alluring sculptures in the gallery was a paper body with long arms that stretch over the length of the wall. The form is intimidating and yet sparks curiosity as to what it may be reaching for. On the floor near the sculpture’s hands is a book that is covered in white plaster.

“I wanted it to feel like a protector in a way but you don’t really know if you’re going to be protected, if it’s aggressive and coming at you or if it’s going to wrap its arms around you,” Saraceni said. “But it’s reaching, it’s reaching for this story and reaching for a life. I thought that tension was really interesting.”

Aside from the sculptures, there were various other pieces around the room. Books were covered in plaster and bellies were casted from cloth and plaster.

“Part of the theme of all of this is claiming space and taking up space. That’s why I wanted to make sculptures to begin with. I wanted to make works that were in your space where you had to walk around them and in between them and they’re sort of competing with you in a way.”


Brandon Barzola is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brandon.barzola@uconn.edu.