The Hand of Fatima and Keep Me Modest, 1989
8 January 2018












The Hand of Fatima and Keep Me Modest are a pair of works that explore the social construction of femininity and abjection. In The Hand of Fatima, two large-scale photographs hung thirteen feet apart depict, respectively, the artist’s hand and a naked man who appears to be hermaphroditic. In between, fourteen small-scale frames hold captions sans images enumerating the effects of menopause, while a fifteenth frame bears an image of a stooping elderly woman, all taken from a geriatric journal from the 1960s. The double abjection of the aging woman is upended by the castrated male figure. The work creates equal volumes of text and image and alludes to transfiguration.

The following captions appear in the frames between the hand and the figure and in the detail photograph:

Fig. 1. Estrogen starvation.
Fig. 2. Atrophying breasts.
Fig. 3. (Photo of a woman taken from an article on menopause and the effects of aging in women that originally appeared in a 1960s geriatric journal. The essay was analyzed in Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Women and Men (1992) by Anne Fausto-Sterling.)
Fig. 4. Increased facial hair.
Fig. 5. Deepening of the voice.
Fig. 6. Coarsened features.
Fig. 7. Enlargement of the clitoris.
Fig. 8. Gradual loss of hair.
Fig. 9. General stiffness of muscles and ligaments.
Fig. 10. Obesity.
Fig. 11. Vapid cow-like feelings.
Fig. 12. Shrivelling vagina.
Fig. 13. Natural defeminization.
Fig. 14. Anxiety and irritability.
Fig. 15. Loss of height.

In Keep Me Modest, columns of folded blankets were placed atop bases of coal. The acronym FASCIST was created from the following “effeminate” adjectives: Frightfully, Awfully, Splendid, Cunning, Hysterical, Sensational, Terribly.

The Hand of Fatima and Keep Me Modest, 1989
Coal, fifteen framed black and white Photostats, seven embroidered World War II blankets, two black and white photographs