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April 09, 2021

Acquisition: Susan Hiller, "Ten Months"

Installation view of Susan Hiller’s "Ten Months"

Installation view of Susan Hiller’s Ten Months (1977–1979), gelatin silver print, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, Gregory and Aline Gooding Fund, and David Knaus Fund © The Estate of Susan Hiller; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Working in a variety of mediums, including painting, video, film, installation, performance, and photography, Susan Hiller (1940–2019) incorporated elements of anthropology, psychoanalysis, and the occult into her art. The National Gallery of Art recently acquired Ten Months (1977–1979), its first work by Hiller and an important piece in her oeuvre that enhances and expands the collection of conceptual and performance photographs.

Like other feminist artists of the 1970s and early 1980s, such as Valie Export (b. 1940), Ana Mendieta (1948–1985), or Francesca Woodman (1958–1981), Hiller makes herself both the subject of her art and the object of her own gaze. Ten Months consists of 10 framed pictures, each containing 28 individual photographs—one for each day of the lunar month—of her growing stomach over the course of her pregnancy. The framed photographs are paired with texts from the artist’s journal that refute sentimental notions of pregnancy, instead providing critical observations of a woman’s position in society. Installed in an arc, with the first month of her pregnancy positioned high off the floor and each succeeding one placed slightly below the one before it, Ten Months reflects on the physical and psychic weight carried during pregnancy.

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