New York

Elvira Bach

Gabrielle Bryers

Is the sensual female with symbolic snake in Elvira Bach’s hyperexpressive paintings the true “liberated woman”? Yes and no. No, because the idea of woman as temptress is a regressive, preliberation one. Yes, because Bach’s temptress is sufficiently narcissistic to seem self-determined—or at least to be on the verge of transcending woman’s traditional role of existing for man before she exists for herself. Seductiveness both masks and manifests this conventional role; it signals woman’s power, but over man, not herself. It is in the ambiguity of the female figure’s meaning that Bach’s work finds its feminist potential.

While Bach’s vigorous expressivity leaves the old soft feminine sensibility far behind, she is still sufficiently “feminine” to take as her theme woman as temptress. It is the twist she gives to the ancient theme—the new meaning she finds in it—that counts, not the theme

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