Mirror Images: Surrealism and Self-Representation

2 paintings on right gallery wall lead viewer into large space displaying paintings, drawings and sculptures on pedestals.

Installation view, Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation, MIT List Visual Art Center, 1998. Archival slide image.

Hayden, Reference, & Bakalar Galleries
Featured Artists
Louise Bourgeois
Claude Cahun
Leonora Carrington
Dorothy Cross
Leonor Fini
Frida Kahlo
Yayoi Kusama
Meret Oppenheim
Rona Pondick
Kay Sage
Paula Santiago
Cindy Sherman
Kiki Smith
Dorothea Tanning
Remedios Varo
Explore all artists who have exhibited at the List in our Artist Index.

Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation, organized by the MIT List Visual Arts Center, will be the first exhibition to present the self-portraits or self-representations of three generations of women Surrealist or Surrealist-influenced artists. 

Mirror Images will include almost 100 paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures dating from 1928 to 1996 by twenty-two artists from North and Central America, Europe and Japan.

Mirror Images will critically examine the remarkable contribution of Surrealist women of the 1930s and 40s in creating unique, specifically female modes of self-representation, and will explore the continued resonance of Surrealism in the work of contemporary women artists up to the present time, providing the historical context and antecedents for their Surrealist-engaged work.

During the 1930s and 40s, women artists associated with the Surrealist movement produced a body of self-portraits that are unique in twentieth century modernism, and have no equivalent among the works of their male colleagues. These artists explore the female body as a site of conflicting desires, and femininity as a taut web of social expectations, historical assumptions and ideological constructions. Significant painted and photographic self-portraits were produced during this period by Claude Cahun, Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fini, Frida Kahlo, Meret Oppenheim, Kay Sage, Dorothea Tanning and Remedios Varo.

Not only did these self-portraits radically challenge existing conventions for representing the female body and female experience, they have become important models for later generations of women artists seeking to explore constructions of gender, sexuality, nature and culture through self-representation. Working in a broad range of media, contemporary artists including Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, Dorothy Cross, Kiki Smith, Cindy Sherman, Paula Santiago and Rona Pondick, have employed the strategies of Surrealism as a relevant means of exploring and asserting a feminine and feminist identity.