Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Leave it to 'June'

Hailey installation at The Center heralds '50s icon

Express Staff Writer

The television show "Leave it To Beaver" bore one of the 20th century's most notable mothers and homemakers, June Cleaver. As women have gained influence and power in the 21st century, June Cleaver's image has become an icon for women breaking the classic notions of the housewife and mother.

"June Cleaver is an iconic television character that redefined a world for women in the 50s," said artist Pamela DeTuncq. "Her image seemed so well suited for my project."

DeTuncq's "June" is a meditation on domesticity and gender roles as well as the expectations of women since the 1950s. The installation is part of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' current multidisciplinary exhibition, "Domestic Life."

At 53, DeTuncq received her master's in fine art in visual arts at the Art Institute of Boston. She went on to advance her work and participated in the school's low residency program. The low residency program allowed her to work in Idaho and meet in Boston a few times a year.

"The project is my thesis, and it came about while I was exploring the meaning of materials and trying to expand my work," DeTuncq said. "The medium I was working in became my message."

"June" consists of thousands of dyed and crushed eggshells. DeTuncq put the shells through several bleach baths to sanitize them and remove the membrane. Afterwards she dyed them to match a six-part gray scale image, which was an enlarged black-and-white publicity photo of actress Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver.

"The work relates to fertility and reproduction," DeTuncq said. "And in this case the female experience."

The artist collected eggshells from area restaurants such as Shorty's, Jesse's, Perry's and the Kneadery as well as from all of her friends to create an 8-by-10-foot eggshell "carpet." DeTuncq said the work is twofold. It is an homage and a good riddance to the idealized American family and the difficult and delicate tasks many women perform in the service of an impossible and outdated model. In addition to eggshells, DeTuncq has made sculptures out of cardboard, books, wax, hair and food.

"(These materials) carry associations derived from complex cultural sources but that vary among individuals," she said.

Her work has been exhibited in Idaho, Utah and Boston and came to the attention of The Center because she enlisted Kristin Poole, The Center's artistic director, as a local advisor for her master's project.

DeTuncq will be in attendance for an opening reception for her installation at The Center in Hailey on Friday, Jan 23, 5:30-7 p.m., and the show will continue through Friday, March 27. Hours in Hailey are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. Admission is free. For details, call 726-949.

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