Judy Dater Only Human
at the de Young in San Francisco
Spanning five decades of the artist’s work, Judy Dater: Only Human is the first exhibition in over twenty years to explore the career of Bay Area photographer Judy Dater. This exhibition surveys Dater’s work, and celebrates her achievement as a pioneering figure in 1970s feminist art and her subsequent creative evolution. It opens at the de Young Museum in San Francisco on April 7, 2018 and remains on view through September 16.
Dater is not a photographer who prefers to stay behind the lens – she’s a formidable woman who won’t hesitate to show you what she’s made of and use her physical self as a vehicle for social commentary. In her piece, “Self-Portrait with Stone,” a nude Dater is seen crumpled in a fetal position on the ground among thousands of scattered rocks. It’s as though she’s a fragment of earth fused to the barren landscape, both included and excluded from the scene. She stands out because she isn’t made of stone, but if you don’t look closely, you could easily miss her altogether. Try as she might, she cannot change her physical matter.
Another piece set in a similar location is “My Hand, Death Valley,” where Dater’s palms are pressed to a plate of glass. Her dry fingers curl around its edge, pulling, clinging; there’s a sense of tension and pain, but also of the will to persist. Dater’s work explores the tender space between self and surroundings, shoulders the weight of social constructs, and reminds us that no matter the outcome of the struggle, we are all still human.