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In the Box, Horizontal

20th Century
6 3/4 in. x 13 1/8 in. (17.15 cm x 33.34 cm)

Ruth Bernhard, American, (1905–2006)

Object Type: Photography and Video
Creation Place: North America, United States
Medium and Support: Gelatin silver print
Credit Line: Museum Purchase, Susan L. Mills Fund
Accession Number: 1976.1
Ruth Bernhard is a queer artist interested in the relationships between the body and objects. When the two are brought into conversation with one another, how does this relationship change? Think about the compositional choices that Bernhard has made to create this image. Bernhard’s exploration of form gives this photograph a very sculptural appearance, as if instead of photographing a living model she has captured a sculpture of a woman carved from the structure of the box itself. Her use of light in this image creates the same effect of contrast between the highlights and the deep shadows on the body which sculptors from the Renaissance sought to achieve in deeply carved marble.

Because of Bernhard’s intentional play with light and composition, this piece focuses on the formal and planar qualities of the body, rather than aligning with the usual presentations of the female nude, which have historically been displayed for the purpose of the male gaze. Instead of showing off this woman’s body, Bernhard uses her model to explore these relationships between body and object, highlighting her natural beauty through exploration, not exploitation.

--Cass Schmitt, December 2018

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:

  • Sheet Dimensions: 6 3/4 in. x 13 1/8 in. (17.15 cm x 33.34 cm)
  • Mat Dimensions: 20 in. x 24 in. (50.8 cm x 60.96 cm)

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