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too small too big
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(b. 1939 Manchester, NH; lives in Dartmouth, NS)
too small too big 1990
silver point on black silk Japanese paper
93 x 63 cm
Mount Saint Vincent University Collection
Composed entirely of disparaging phrases, Marie Koehler’s lithograph rehearses women’s inexhaustible anxiety concerning their bodies. Yet there is pleasure, too. Exquisite silver handwriting enriches the already beautiful surface of the handmade paper. Such refinement belies the faults enumerated in the list. Breasts are never named as such; Koehler’s suppression of the word suggests the fraughtness of the issue. In too small too big, the tension between the brutal words and the elegant composition grows as we read on.
This conceptually-based print has an obsessive allure. The phrases roll on like a mantra: too large too threatening too soft too feminine too soft too slutty too soft too careless. Repetition of the word too amplifies its sense of excessiveness. But through repetition and extended enumeration, Koehler transforms a misogynous tract into a demonstration of the absurdity of judgment. It is not appearance that is the issue, but the predicament of being marked out as the object of judgment, just by having breasts. If you write every conceivable adjective, as Koehler does, the effect will be extraordinarily therapeutic!
At the bottom of the list Koehler writes too soft just right too hard just right. It is as if the artist has come to terms with her own body, which is ‘just right’.
Marie Koehler also works in video. She received her BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1988.
From too small too big by I. Jenkner
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