previous  |  next

A recurring theme in Friedberg's imagery concerns the nature of sexuality and gender construction. The power of these image-signs lies in their ability to convey the ambivalence, ambiguities, and subtleties of desire, of social constructions and of power relations embedded in the subject. Yet the artist does not fail to express at the same time, through narrative situations, the rigid dichotomy of patriarchal structures on which gender in our society is constructed. Thus, although her images often utilize well known stereotypes concerning male/female relationships, their descent into ambiguity keeps them from becoming cliches.

The question to ask is whether Friedberg's images reflect and thus uphold the status quo, with whatever subtleties, or whether they are productive of new meanings? Do her images of women, for example, disrupt the "master" narratives of patriarchal discourse? Does she provide an "open interpretive structure," a "model for the redescription" of those narratives?2 Or does she reveal the complexity of male/female interaction within them? In most cases, Friedberg does not refuse the stereotype, nor does she self-consciously reveal the nature of representation. Rather, she discloses, through representational devices, the power of the stereotype to define, construct, and delimit women in our society, just as she points to their negating role. In the Erection, the woman's upright position and direct, questioning gaze at the supine male with an erect organ before her, does not necessarily fit any preconceived notion of female sexuality.