Addison Gallery Opening Challenges Audience to View American Icons in Unconventional Ways


Dulce Pinzón, “Maria Luisa Romero from Puebla works in a laundromat in Brooklyn, New York. She sends $150 a week,” 2005-2010. Archival c-print from analog image. Courtesy of the artist.

Tears stream from her eyes, covered by white glasses that reflect an image of Superman kissing Batman. Next to this painting is the enlarged reflection of Superman and Batman in embrace, a cape enveloping them.

“In the description below [the images], it talks about regardless if Superman were gay, he is still Superman… the same is said for Batman. Rich Simmons, [the artist], is trying to show that you shouldn’t judge someone based on their sexual orientation and it shouldn’t be a boundary,” said Claire Song ’22, an attendee of the exhibit. 

The two artworks, “Chrome Reflections” and “Between the Capes,” both by artist Rich Simmons, are part of the new exhibit “Men of Steel and Women of Wonder,” which opened on in the Addison Gallery of American Art on Friday, October 4. According to Stephanie Sparling Williams, one of the exhibition’s curators, the show opened in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, and has traveled to two other schools — its last stop being Andover. 

Sparling Williams said, “I think the show is really looking at the history of these two icons, both Superman and Wonder Woman, and looking at how artists have explored these concepts over the course of history, and really making a comment on what we can learn from these ideas — these characters — and how they’re portrayed by artists today.”

While many of the artworks in the exhibit celebrated the history of superheroes and their position as role models in society, others questioned their purpose. Attendee Christine Michael ’22 noticed how Valentin Popov criticized superheroes in his two paintings titled “St. Wonder Woman” and “St. Superman.” Both portraits portray the heroes smiling, surrounded by a background of gold that Michael thinks represents how superheroes are often idolized. 

“For some reason we have chosen these fictional figures as a symbol for Americans, to symbolize what a ‘true American’ should be. They are the ones who fly around saving the world, they are good looking, and they are indestructible. I think the image of superheroes is pretty toxic, as they aren’t real and are an unrealistic ideal that continues to be prevalent today,” said Michael.

The exhibit focuses on many current issues, such as immigration, identity, and sexual orientation. The image titled “MARIA LUISA ROMERO from the State of Puebla works in a Laundromat in Brooklyn, New York. She sends 150 dollars a week” by Dulce Pinzón shows a woman dressed up as Wonder Woman, working in a laundromat. Large laundry machines line the wall behind her as she looks off into the distance, a faint smile on her face. 

Attendee Evalyn Lee ’23 said, “There are a lot of immigrants in America — illegal immigrants too. Especially with our current president and politics, immigrants are often surrounded by certain stereotypes and stigma. Wonder Woman, the quintessential American, is also an immigrant. Superheroes like her are the ones who save the world, so I feel like the artist is drawing a comparison between them and immigrants, making them seem more similar.”

The “Men of Steel and Women of Wonder” exhibit will be on display in the Addison Gallery of American Art until January 5, 2020.