Alevtina Kakhidze

My husband's eyes are like Jeanne Samary's*

-       Who’s Jeanne Samary?

-       Renoir painted her.

-       And your husband has eyes like her?

-       Yes.

-       And what does this mean?


For the project “Nizhnist” (Tenderness) [1] I put up a reproduction of a portrait of the recognized beauty and actress Jeanne Samary, painted by the French impressionist painter Auguste Renoir, and an amateur photograph of my husband. The installation was called “My Husband’s Eyes are Like Jeanne Samary’s.”

In Ukrainian publications, this work was accompanied only by the words "sentimentality" [2] and "hyper-intimacy" [3]. This is not accurate or correct. My project was more ironic than sentimental and more hyper-public than hyper-intimate. This is so obvious!

As with risk (they could not have believed me when I said that my husband’s eyes are like Jeanne Samary’s), sentimentality cannot dominate and remain a distinct quality. Moreover; present my project in reverse: a male artist insists that his wife’s eyes are like those of the man in the portrait!? And that portrait was painted by a woman who is a renowned artist and recognized by all! Neither this portrait nor this woman exist.

 Even if a male artist undertakes such a project he will insist that his wife’s eyes are like those of the man in the portrait – but he, as a man, won’t be called sentimental. Aspects of inequality, irony, even the humor of the work - these should be my project’s epithets, not sentimentality.

 And now, why I don’t believe that the project is hyper-intimate. The demonstration of “intimate” details (such as who has eyes like my husband’s) in the project were not meant for pure demonstration, but to try to be like Renoir, to create something ideal like he did, to have a muse like he did! And that’s what I did, moreover, publicly – everyone looked at him and not me (like with Jeanne Samary and Renoir – everyone looked at her, not at him). That’s why my project isn’t hyper-intimate [3], but hyper-public.

 By the way, there was no constructive criticism of my project. The project included Renoir’s quote (intonations of admiration), but Renoir was the dumbest of all the impressionists in his characterization of beauty and women. Look closely at how Jeanne Samary is pictured, how she’s standing, how she’s dressed, how her mouth is ajar. Naturally, the choice of this quote could have been chance, but it would difficult to misunderstand the emphasis of my gesture in the given context – Jeanne Samary is ideal for illustrating the polarity of masculinity and femininity. I even thought the critics would write: “Alevtina manipulates gender stereotypes and takes her lead from the tastes of the mainstream audience! Renoir is limited!” But nobody wrote this…

 Furthermore, I wasn’t able to avoid reflection (typically by women) – for my own affirmation, I used a “man’s” quotation in the project – Jeanne Samary’s portrait wasn’t painted by a woman! But are there female quotations!?

 I wasn’t able to avoid general reflection – Jeanne Samary’s portrait wasn’t painted by a Ukrainian artist! Is there a Ukrainian artist who has painted a portrait that everyone recognizes?

 If my critical essay actually existed, then I would answer: “It’s a shame that my project can’t be improved, that it can’t be better – it can’t not have the shortcomings mentioned above. Perhaps that’s how I did everything that I could in due time, in my situation, in my position.”



[1] The Installation “My Husband’s Eyes are Like Jeanne Samary’s” was displayed in Olesya Ostrovska’s curatorial project “Tenderness” (Center for Contemporary Art, National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy,” 2003).  The project concentrated on the issues of the inexpedience of breaking such ideas as “tenderness” and assigning it to a woman – “motherly tenderness,” “female tenderness.”

[2] “Tenderness on a Napkin,” Maksym Petruk, Sehodnya. June 14, 2003, No. 1476: “For sentimental Alevtina Kakhidze, the eyes of her other half are like Jeanne Samary’s from Auguste Renoir’s famous paintings (for comparison a reproduction is presented).”

[3] “Honey, Honey, Baby…” Ihor Lyamshyn. Culture. June 2, 2003: “Just like “I feel good” radiated in full strength by Alevtina Kakhidze about her strong half. With intention or without, but she thought her husband’s eyes look like those of Jeanne Samary, a popular actress in the XIX century (and her eyes are indeed like ripe cherries). To support this, a full-size photocopy of the Hermitage portrait by Auguste Renoir is displayed and across the hall is a photograph of her husband. You have to think that we’re not even talking about reticence, which for art isn’t a sin at all, but more likely about hyper-intimacy, the fascination with what is one’s very own.”

* the text from the project (True Alevtina) was initiated by Alevtina Kakhidze to describe and criticize her own art work.




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