[...] I believed what I saw. He was not
what I saw. My body opened.
It was not my body. I became
a question that must not be asked
of the gods. I grew ripe with it.
I lost my place, my people.
I took the white ribbon from my hair.
Yet to her I was still what lit him [...]
– from The Dark, Lavinia Greenlaw
Drawing on the story of Callisto as told in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Part 2 of Alexis Hunter: Money Art Sex, curated by Hettie Judah, explores themes of sexual threat, sisterhood and the bitchy jealousy long attributed to women through a selection of prints, photographs, collage, paintings and moving image work by Alexis HUNTER (1948–2014).
In her art, Hunter explored how the fetishisation of women's bodies, the promotion of unrealistic beauty ideals and the aspiration to a glossy lifestyle were bound up in the cultural convention that women were in competition with one another. During the 1970s in London, she was part of feminist organisations including the Women's Art Alliance and the Women's Workshop of the Artists Union. This era of progressive sisterhoods, of idealistic codes binding art and life, was also marked by fractures and disagreements.
The Metamorphoses have inspired many works of art–perhaps most famously Titian's Poesie, which includes a devastating dramatisation of Diana exiling Callisto. Although Hunter's return to painting in the 1980s was controversial among her feminist contemporaries, part of her project was the exploration of mythic archetypes and their endurance in art: not only the gods of the Greeks and Romans, but the foundation stories of her native New Zealand. The exhibition closes with the tale of Maui, the first man, and Hine-nui-te-pō, the great goddess of death and the underworld.
Press release courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.