Orleman's painting of 1979-89 is typical of first-wave feminism which explores essentialist constructions of an innate feminine sensibility. She defies convention by recontextualizing the pastel colors and biomorphic shapes commonly dismissed by male critics with the pejorative "feminine." Orleman develops an iconography of central core imagery in which she organizes her compositions around a central cavity that becomes a metaphor for the female body. She references the Jungian lexicon of fertility symbols, particularly the archetype of the Great Goddess. The myth of the Great Goddess appealed to first-wave feminists such as Hanna Wilke and Miriam Shapiro because it leant an intellectual legitimacy to their treatment of powerful female figures. It offered Orleman an opportunity to consider what it might have been like to be a woman in a matrifocal ancient culture. She employs the Great Goddess to redress the devaluation of the female body in patriarchal culture and in the familial culture of her childhood as well. Her allegories of the Great Goddess in conception, pregnancy, and birth express Orleman's longing for domestic comfort and safety. Like the earlier interiors, the womb here becomes an allegory of home. Orleman looks to the Goddess for the protective mothering she was denied as a girl and for psychic metamorphosis.

By 1990, Orleman abandons the Great Goddess archetype to address her childhood trauma with the immediacy of narrative; and in the new paintings, colored by second-wave feminism, she identifies gender as socially constructed rather than biologically determined. Like Sue Williams and Ida Applebroog, she foregrounds the experience of rape to overturn canonical codes of representation that construct femininity through objectification. The death of her mother in 1989 freed Orleman to break the family's conspiracy of silence. The guidance of a psychotherapist helped her to express her emotions of fear, shame, isolation, and rage, and to reclaim her body. Recasting the doll house-like space of her early interiors, she creates suffocating, horrific family "portraits." Working on an intimate scale with fine sable brushes, she accesses the insights of her girlhood. And painting on a monumental scale with a butcher knife, she discovers a transgressive, defiant self. Orleman invents a complex personal iconography to represent her abuse in graphic detail and to convey her process of self-empowerment. Table becomes bed which becomes coffin which becomes canvas; knife becomes phallus which becomes paintbrush. Orleman's aesthetic of urgency distinguishes her work from the glossy often seductive images of female victims ubiquitous in popular culture. As she hystericizes the female body, she refutes the male gaze and reorients her self-identity from that of victim to survivor.

Dick and Jane's Spot is Orleman's antidote to the painful process of self-scrutiny. This ever-changing sculpture garden she and her husband, artist Dick Elliott, began building in 1982 at their home in Ellensburg infuses her analysis of domesticity with humor and utopian sentiment. Celebrating their partnership of mutual emotional and artistic support, Dick and Jane's Spot is an edenic vision in which Orleman and Elliott break free from academic practice to assert their own rules. Dick and Jane's Spot is a kinesthetic, sensory experience, a dazzling labyrinth of course materials from bicycle reflectors to milk bottles, incongruously combined and heavily encrusted, to create a disorienting but transformative experience. To Orleman, the garden is a place of refuge and an act of self-actualization. Through her carnivalesque totems that proclaim "Art is Life," she reconfigures her idea of home from one which heaps abuse to that which offers spiritual and artistic regeneration.

Janet Marstine teaches at Central Washington University. Her book "New
Museum Theory: An Introduction" will be published by Blackwell in
February 2005.

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