Hidden in plain sight

Author: Coral Broughton

Hidden in Plain Sight

Coral Broughton
21 August 2020

Broughton, C. (2020). Hidden in Plain Sight. (An abstract of a dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a Master of Visual Arts at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand)


Hidden in Plain Sight is a body of self-portraiture works exploring my own aging within the concept of the invisibility of the aging woman in Western society. The concept of the veil, real and metaphorical was the initial idea behind exploring the veil of invisibility as experienced by the aging woman. As a female artist I am looking at the experiences of older women with a focus on how women artists respond to the experience of their own aging within their practice. I am looking at how women have been represented, or not represented in historical art canon and, also consider historical and contemporary artists that have and are addressing the aging process.

Female artists who are producing work that is raw and honest confront the aging issue and bring some awareness to the anomalies between men and woman in terms of aging. These artists have made steps in exposing the narrative around images that show the process of aging as a contemporary art form, not just images but an invitation to view these images of aging women in a new way. They invite visual encounters that are reflective and have moved beyond the male gaze but still acknowledging the need for looking and being looked at.

In a culture where beauty and feminism is tied to youth there comes a time when no matter how healthy and well-groomed women are they realise they are being over looked. This reaction is sometimes greeted with relief and a sense of freedom as the pressure to ‘dress to impress’ is removed. The process of aging can be seen as an opportunity for re-definition, where aging is seen as a desirable condition marked by indifference which allows for freedom to live outside the gaze.

The core of female self-representational art is using her own body. The art itself represents the embodied experience of the artist—her family, sexuality, relationships, childhood experiences, personal traumas, plus the way her culture has shaped her and her response to its oppression. To be ambitious for themselves not just for themselves through family or relationships but to tell the truth through a face and body that tells a story of time.

Hidden in Plain Sight invites new ways of looking at older women which encourages us to look in a more reflective manner. Our society must embrace aging as part of our visual culture and endeavour to pull older women out from under the veil of cultural invisibility.

Key words: Hidden in plain sight; Aging; Female artists; Gender studies; Feminist studies; Invisibility.

Coral Broughton's primary supervisor was Jane Venis.


This abstract is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence CC BY-NC 4.0 International. The thesis is not publicly available online. 

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