Today’s post comes from Simone Levine, Class of 2013 and Art Center Student Docent.

Explorers of the galleries of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center will find a special space at its back wall called the Project Gallery.  This space serves an exhibition area for filled by requests by Vassar faculty to expose students to works for discussion, inquiry, and research.  Most recently on display in the Project Gallery were ten photographs by Mariette Pathy Allen ’62 from her 1980‘s collection Transformations, which focuses on male-to-female crossdressers and the spouses and children who loved them.  The exhibition of Allen’s work was a part of this past weekend’s conference “Smashing History: 150 Years of LGBTIQA at Vassar” and the subject of a gallery talk this past Thursday during Late Night.

At the Late Night, Allen began by discussing her choice of crossdressers as her subject, revealing she was first inspired by a group of crossdressers she met in 1978 at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  After charming Allen over lunch, the group had agreed to pose for Allen as she took their picture.  When she recounted the moment of taking their picture, Allen said she “felt as if I was looking at the essence of a human being rather than a man or woman.”  After she said this, I turned my attention to the ten photographs on display in the Project Gallery that night.  I noticed the majority of her subjects looked straight into the camera, commanding my attention to look into their eyes.  Although they were clad in flamboyant costume, each subject’s eyes revealed the true personality within.  When asked how she feels her work has been received her work over the years, Allen responded that the LGBTQ community has largely been proud of the work.  Looking around me at the group that had assembled that night of current and past members of the Vassar community, I saw many smiles and nods of agreement, their eyes reflecting the vitality I saw in Allen’s subjects.  In the end, the Smashing History convention provided wonderful exposure through Allen’s exhibition in the Project Gallery to the deeper humanity of the LQBTQIA community at Vassar.