public eye-private me, 2003.
Mildred Howard (American, born 1945)
Powder-coated steel and laminated copper-plated mirrors, 120 x 96 x 132 in. Crocker Art Museum purchase with contributions from The James Irvine Foundation, Gallery Paule Anglim and the Artist, 2006.11.

Meant for a public art gallery, this open-work structure by Berkeley artist Mildred Howard is a communal pavilion riddled with mirrored windows affording no privacy whatsoever. Instead, it offers an exercise in seeing and being seen. The visitor standing inside its walls is highlighted as the subject of scrutiny. This is not just because the person standing within happens to be reflected in myriad mirrored panels, but as it turns out, each of those panels has a window which anyone may peer through, at any time. It’s an interesting twist: the voyeur gets to witness him or herself in the reflections that ricochet. Inside or out, the canopy acts like a giant kaleidoscope, shifting reflections with every movement and change in vantage point.

The house, one of Howard’s major themes, serves as a metaphor for the location of self, asking how do we know it, let alone recognize it? Public eye-private me counts as Howard’s largest such sculpture to date. At its core, as with Howard’s work more broadly, is the artist’s ongoing dissection of class, race, gender, public identity, private persona, and how the social construct of such categories originates, takes root, and perpetuates.

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