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Photographer Alpern Exploits Line Between Art and Voyeurism

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04/12/2003

NEW PALTZ -- Merry Alpern, a photographer who focuses on intimate, sometimes illicit moments in her explorations of the artist as voyeur, will give a slide lecture at SUNY New Paltz on Wednesday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Lecture Center 102.

ImageAlpern's most noted projects involve photographing her subjects unawares: Through the bathroom window of a New York men's club, she shot prostitutes and their clients in grainy, disembodied images for her book Dirty Windows.

The hazy border between transgression and transcendence is an area Alpern treads carefully. In Dirty Windows she writes: "I used to have a recurring dream. It went like this: I'm spying on some activity in the window when, suddenly, the subject becomes aware of my presence and looks up. We lock eyes...."

Despite their explicit, sometimes morose subject matter, reviewers have called Alpern's work fascinating, beautiful and intellectually provocative. Hundreds of the Dirty Windows prints were sold to private collectors. They are also included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

In Shopping, Alpern extended her observer's stance to department stores. For months she brought a surveillance camera hidden inside her purse to a communal, women's dressing room and photographed customers in various states of self-scrutiny and undress. Much of the project stemmed from discomfort with her own self-image. Alpern has said.

The work melds reportage with art. Critic and curator Andy Grundberg called it "prima facie documentary rendered theatrical by the descriptive uncertainty of the enlarged print and our knowledge of the artist's trespass."

Alpern's lecture, which is sponsored by the Student Art Alliance is free and open to the public. The Student Art Alliance is a funded member of the Student Association. For more information, call 845-257-3872. -30- High and low resolution image availabe at http://www.newpaltz.edu/news/images/alpern-04-03.html