U.Va. Art Museum Presents Two New Videos that Explore Female Identities in Its New Media Gallery

May 8, 2007 -- The University of Virginia Art Museum presents two videos by artists who explore female identities through performing in their own pieces from May 8 through June 9. These works complement the Virginia Film Society’s recent presentation of Richmond artist David William’s new video, “Bad Girls,” about Richmond artist Keithley Pierce. Selections of Pierce’s paintings are on view outside the New Media Gallery in the Museum.

"It Wasn't Love" by Sadie Benning (1992, 20 minutes)

Benning illustrates a lustful encounter with a "bad girl," through the gender posturing and genre interplay of Hollywood stereotypes: posing for the camera as the rebel, the platinum blonde, the gangster, the 1950s crooner and the heavy-lidded vamp. Cigarette poses, romantic slow dancing and fast-action heavy metal street shots propel the viewer through the story of the love affair. Benning's video goes farther than romantic fantasy, describing other facets of physical attraction including fear, violence, lust, guilt and total excitement. As she puts it, "It wasn't love, but it was something…." It was a chance to feel glamorous, sexy and famous, all at the same time.

Born into an artistic family, Sadie Benning was destined to follow in the family's footsteps. Her father James Benning is an avant-garde filmmaker and her mother an artist. She was born in 1973 in Madison, Wis., and grew up in Milwaukee. When she was 15 years old, her father gave her a Fisher-Price PXL 2000 toy video camera for Christmas. She began making short films in the privacy of her own bedroom using her new camera. Two years later she came out as a lesbian. Many of her movies are coming-of-age stories about her own experiences as a young lesbian teenager.

The movies she made with her Fisher-Price camera soon became popular. They were coined as "Pixelvision" videos, and Benning was looked up to as a pioneer of Pixelvision. She received a Rockefeller grant at 19 and by the time she was 20 years old, her videos were being shown at the Museum of Modern Art. At the ripe old age of 27, she formed a band called Le Tigre with Kathleen Hanna, formerly of Bikini Kill, and Johanna Fateman, a magazine writer. They released their first album in February 1999.

"The Amateurist" by Miranda July (1989, 14 minutes)

This captivating video is about surveillance, identity, watching and being watched. "The Amateurist" slides along the edges of horror and satire to create an unsettling portrait of a woman on the brink of a technologically driven madness.

Miranda July was born 1974 in Barre, Vt., and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is a video artist, performer and recording artist. Her work may be found in numerous public collections, including the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Williams College, Williamstown, Mass.; and Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va. She  was a Sundance Institute Screenwriter’s Lab Fellow and Director’s Lab Fellow in 2003 and received a Creative Capital Foundation award (Emerging Fields) in 2002.    

"The Amateurist" won numerous prizes in 1998, including the Silver Globe Award, New Visions, at the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Silver Award, Experimental, at the New York Exposition of Short Film and Video.

The U.Va. Art Museum’s New Media Gallery exhibitions are collaborative presentations with the Virginia Film Festival and made possible with the generosity of Crutchfield.

Located at 155 Rugby Road, the museum is open to the public 1 to 5 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. A visitors’ parking lot is located on Bayly Drive, off Rugby Road.