Probing Cultural and Gender Stereotypes



Photographer Linn Underhill is creator of seven major photographic series, several original artistic books and is one of two the headlining artists at the latest Picker Art Gallery exhibition. This renown and clearly talented photographer also happens to be my Photography I professor.

“I never show students my work,” the Associate Professor of Art and Art History confessed under the bright gallery lights amid students and fellow professors at the opening of her exhibition on Monday, April 12.

“Sometimes students feel like there is pressure to make your work like your teacher’s. This is my work and then you have yours.”

But Underhill’s uniquely beautiful collection Of Someone and Something doesn’t appear to be replicable in the slightest. A combination of black and white and color photos, these portraits and self-portraits powerfully engender big questions of age, gender, and female empowerment.

“I took these pictures right after I turned 60,” Underhill said of her featured series After All. “Where you see me juggling these translucent body parts, I was considering morality and age. I was becoming aware of my body and how it can’t rebound like it used to. You get older and you have to get a colonoscopy to see inside your body – it’s beautiful!”

In addition to age, several of Underhill’s other works in Picker are constructed around the construct of gender and the shattering of the traditional female role. In NoMan’s Land she gorgeously examines the softer eroticized gaze of some of her male artistic heroes, like T.S Eliot and Tennessee Williams, while in The Cosmic Dominatrix, Underhill dresses in brightly colored costumes parodying conventional roles more commonly held by men. In Claiming the Gaze she approaches female empowerment head on.

“Traditionally in photographs, women’s bodies are fragmented, they are nude, their gaze is to the side and smiling in order to soften the blow,” Underhill said. “In my life-size photos, these women – friends and members of my family – are looking straight into the camera lens. They aren’t smiling. They look powerful.”

However in a single glance at the other side of the Picker Gallery, visitors are confronted with another onslaught of shattered stereotypes in German photographer Christina Zück’s Defense Phase II Karachi. During her stay in one of Pakistan’s largest cities, Zück attempted to challenge the traditional misconceptions about this Middle Eastern country with her photographs.

“I was working with pre-fabricated ideas about Pakistan,” Zück said. “All I knew about this country was what the media fed me – bombing, terrorism, poverty. I set out to discover what the other image of this society was.”

And the images that she has found are truly extraordinary. Through her incredible series of color analog prints, visitors are transported to a world deeper than the typical media outlet provides. She poignantly depicts moments in Karachi life that are never normally seen: the expression of a man entranced by a sitar being played, young boys on a beach in socially contrasting clothing, and the defiant gaze of a female medical student in a hijab on a street corner.

“Photographing is natural behavior of the Westerner and so often people have different approaches to the photographer,” said Zück. “But surprisingly kids and families wanted pictures to be taken of them on the street. They were very proud.”

“I really wanted Colgate Students to connect with Christina’s photographs,” Curator Joachim Homann said. “Originally, I wanted to talk her out of her trip to Pakistan because I thought it was dangerous and I was worried about her. But in the end, she has really done an amazing job of unmasking the cliché’s of a foreign country.”

Both Professor Underhill and Christina Zück’s work will be on display at the Picker from April 12 until July 25.

Contact Sydney Lowe at [email protected].