Eliza Douglas creates precariously balanced compositions that teeter between realism and abstraction, balletic grace and slapstick humor. These latest works, part of a series begun in 2016, are titled with lines from the poems of Dorothea Lasky. In each canvas, expertly rendered hands are connected by a network of outlandishly long, gesturally painted shirtsleeves. Douglas typically serves as the model for these body parts and clothing, creating an oblique form of self-portrait. Her slippery approach to depicting herself suggests that there is always a gap between how we envision ourselves and how we are perceived by others.
Shadow and Light and Blood and Bones touch on the legacy of Douglas’s great-grandmother Dorothy Wolff Douglas, PhD. Alongside her own hands, the artist paints those of her aunt Carolyn, Wolff Douglas’s granddaughter and Douglas’s only link to her great- grandmother. From 1924 to 1951, Wolff Douglas was a professor in (and eventually the chair of) the Smith College economics department, where she was a mentor to the feminist author and activist Betty Friedan. She lived with her partner of thirty years, Katherine DuPre Lumpkin, a sociologist who examined race relations in the American South. The two women broke cultural and academic boundaries, influencing the progressive politics of the period. At the height of McCarthyism, the U.S. anticommunist panic in the early 1950s, Wolff Douglas was called to testify before the Un-American Activities Committee of the House of Representatives. She lost her job, and both women were forced to suppress their scholarly contributions; Douglas poetically recuperates this lost history.
Eliza Douglas was born in 1984 in New York and lives and works in Berlin and New York.
This installation is made possible by the generous support of Wendy Fisher.