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Contemporary ArtJewish Culture & IdeasPhotography

Show Me as I Want to Be Seen

Feb 7, 2019–Jul 7, 2019

How do we depict “the self” if it is unknowable, inherently constructed, and ever-changing? How does the concept of portraiture shift when categories are in crisis and visibility itself is problematic? Jewish thought on performed and fluid identity can be interpreted in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible, an archetypal story of an empowered declaration of Jewish identity. Likewise, the Talmudic notion of svara is a potent entry-point to Jewish practices of self-determination, themes that animate Show Me as I Want to Be Seen.

Taking the work of French Jewish artist and writer Claude Cahun (1894–1954) and her lifelong lover and collaborator Marcel Moore (1892–1972) as its starting point, Show Me as I Want to Be Seen examines the empowered representation of fluid and complex identity. Cahun (born Lucy Schwob) and Moore (born Suzanne Malherbe) were pioneers in their bold representations of an unfixed self. This exhibition positions their work in dialogue with ten contemporary artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, video, and 3-D animation. The contemporary artists in the exhibition—Nicole Eisenman, Rhonda Holberton, Hiwa K, Young Joon Kwak, Zanele Muholi, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Gabby Rosenberg, Tschabalala Self, Davina Semo, and Isabel Yellin—also address notions of the opaque, constructed, and shifting self.

Show Me as I Want to Be Seen is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum and is curated by CJM Assistant Curator Natasha Matteson. The exhibition is accompanied by a 112-page, fully illustrated hardcover catalog published by The CJM with original contributions by Natasha Matteson, Rabbi Benay Lappe, and a newly-commissioned piece of fiction by Porpentine Charity Heartscape.

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Book cover with a grey background with white text reading "Show Me As I Want to Be Seen" surrounded by a white border

The official catalog of Show Me As I Want to Be Seen (published by The CJM) features original contributions by Natasha Matteson, Rabbi Benay Lappe, and a newly-commissioned piece of fiction by Porpentine Charity Heartscape.


Show Me as I Want to Be Seen is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum and curated by Natasha Matteson, Assistant Curator.

Support for this exhibition is generously provided by Suzanne and Elliott Felson; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; Gaia Fund; Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund; Dorothy R. Saxe; Susan and Michael Steinberg; Bavar Family Foundation; Nellie and Max Levchin; Phyllis Moldaw; Roselyne Chroman Swig; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Judith and Robert Aptekar; Dana Corvin and Harris Weinberg; Rosanne and Al Levitt; Joyce B. Linker; Douglas D. Mandell, Alexandra Moses; Eta and Sass Somekh; Ruth Stein; Toole Family Charitable Foundation; Marilyn and Murry Waldman; Kendra and Tom Kasten; Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery; Barbara Ravizza and John Osterweis; David Saxe; and Fred Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation, in memory of Ben and A. Jess Shenson.

Image Credit

Tschabalala Self, Perched, 2016. Oil, acrylic, flashe, handmade paper, fabric, and found material. Courtesy of the artist and Kate Werble Gallery, New York. Photo: Elizabeth Bernstein.