Gallery: Two Women on Women

Artists Marcia Morse and Margaret Realica challenge contemporary views on the feminine ideal.

It is only every so often that we get to see art that addresses timely topics in articulate, thought-provoking ways. This month, the Nuuanu Gallery presents that rare opportunity. The separate-but-related bodies of work by local powerhouse Marcia Morse and former Hawaii resident Margaret Realica offer answers to difficult questions about perceptions of women.

The inspiration for Morse’s new series is her morbidly beautiful 2005 piece “Bundle,” in which she etched a strange white shape on a black background. Drawn from a network of cross-hatched lines, the mysterious mummy is an icon of earthly death, feminine funerary rites and passage into the afterlife.

(left) Marcia Morse’s “Women in Black 1,” (right) Margaret Realica’s “T with Gears”

With this series, Morse presents her layered black and white intaglio prints as parables. In many of her images, she sandwiches Persian calligraphy between silhouettes of Arabic women and patterns reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s famous soup cans, creating symbolic stories. Morse’s most potent symbol is the Woman in Black—a figure who has come to signify different things in our media-saturated world. In the United States, a woman in black is going out on a date; in the Middle East, she is often considered property.

“The frictions of identity politics surface in Hawaii as elsewhere,” Morse says. Her latest prints remind us that global problems eventually surface as locally relevant.

Marcia Morse: Women in Black/Margaret Realica: New Work
Oct. 3 through Nov. 3
Nu‘uanu Gallery (1161 Nu‘uanu Ave.), 536-9828

Realica’s sculptures might seem macho at first glance. Metal, ceramic and Plexiglas combine to make strange objects whose purpose could seem devilish. Once you notice, however, that these constructions are actually mechanical breasts (the “ultimate perfect container,” says Realica) and find they are multifaceted meditations on breast cancer, Earth’s precious water supply and the computer age, you smile. In “T with Gears,” a lamp-like UFO appears ready to blast off for outer space in a Luc Besson film. Realica’s pneumatic and hydraulic inventions sit atop pedestals, making them unattainable and powerful. They look so foreign that you believe they must work in some way. Otherwise, how would they have transported themselves here on their goodwill mission?