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Adaptations #58
woman artist, feminist, normal, altered photographs,pen and ink,drawing, text, multi-discipline, performance, identity, sense of self, installation, expectations of women's image, body image, women's role in society, eating disorders, costume, provacative, comical, juxtaposition, cultural expectations, marginalization, beauty, conformity, sexuality, stereo type, woman as object, satire, social issues, confrontation, media, popular culture

The altered photographs or "adaptations", as Streifler titles them, are part of over 500 photographs she produced for her 1997 exhibition entitled, Normal at the Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan. The two prominently featured here are Adaptations #58 and #60.  (NOTE: to see each of these featured Adaptations, click on the images below the main window.  To return to the main image with all six Adaptations shown, click on the Refresh button which is the green arrow button to the right of the Zoom buttons.)

start quoteI think I do have a good sense of humour. That's something in my own personality, and I see things as funny. And I like to often say self-effacing things because I just think it's funny how much awful things happen and then it's a way of dealing with it, right? It's a way to deal with painful things, and I think I used that strategy when I was a child.end quote-- Leesa Streifler

These altered photographic images are puzzling and appear to be anything but normal. In this series, Streifler combines photography, drawing, text and her staged  performanceAn art form in which the actions of a person or group in a particular place at a particular time constitute the artwork; all works of performance art therefore incorporate time, space, the performer’s body, and the relationship between performer and viewer.  to communicate ideas of how appearance can be tied to an individual’s identity and sense of self.  She questions the traditional roles and expectations of females in western society, opens our eyes to ideas of  feminismFeminism essentially comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and philosophies concerned with gender inequalities, and equal rights for people of all genders. Especially since the late 1960s, when the feminist art movement can be said to have emerged, women have been particularly interested in what makes them different from males — what makes women artists and their art different from male artists and their art. This has been most prominent in the United States, Britain, and Germany, although there are numerous precursors to the movement, and it has spread to many other cultures since the 1970s. Feminists point out that throughout most of recorded history males have imposed patriarchal (father-centered) social systems (in which they have dominated females). Although it is not the goal of this article to recount the development of feminist theory in full, the history of feminist art cannot be understood apart from it. Feminist theory must take into account the circumstances of most women's lives as mothers, household workers, and caregivers, in addition to the pervasive misconception that women are genetically inferior to men. Feminist art notes that significant in the dominant (meaning especially Western) culture's patriarchal heritage is the preponderance of art made by males, and for male audiences, sometimes transgressing against females. Men have maintained a studio system which has excluded women from training as artists, a gallery system that has kept them from exhibiting and selling their work, as well as from being collected by museums — albeit somewhat less in recent years than before. (  and reminds us how messages of the mass  mediaAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  and  popular cultureLow (as opposed to high) culture, parts of which are known as kitsch and camp. With the increasing economic power of the middle- and lower-income populace since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, artists created various new diversions to answer the needs of these groups. These have included pulp novels and comic books, film, television, advertising, "collectibles," and tract housing. These have taken the place among the bourgeois once taken among the aristocracy by literature, opera, theater, academic painting, sculpture, and architecture. But modernist artists rarely cultivated the popular success of these new cultural forms. Modernist works were little appreciated outside of a small elite. Life magazine's 1950s articles on the abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956), and the silkscreened paintings by Andy Warhol (American, 1928?-1987) of soup cans and celebrities signaled unprecedented fusions between high and low art and the transition to the postmodern age. (  can affect our subconscious and our actions.

The works are not typical self-portraits but are based on Streifler’s observations and personal experiences of being a woman.  She photographed her own figure in a variety of costumes and positions and her body language was often angry or provocative.  The resulting photographs were altered and enhanced to produce somewhat comical images that, at the same time, reveal distressed, frustrated or agonized depictions of women.  This  juxtapositionCombining two or more objects that don’t usually go together to cause the viewer to consider both objects differently.  creates powerful and challenging images that are not easily excused or ignored.  They speak to a variety of social and cultural concerns as well as many relevant and serious themes relating to women's daily lives.

additional resources On Her Childhood Drawings and Identity
Duration: 1:58 min
Size: 3572kb
On the Creation of the Work
Duration: 1:22 min
Size: 2376kb
On the Use of Humour in Art
Duration: 2:25 min
Size: 4097kb
Things to Think About
  • What is normal when it comes to depicting women's bodies and their lives? Do Leesa Streifler’s Adaptations present conventional images of typical women or common ideas about normal, ordinary women? Is it normal to have a body that gradually changes in size or shape? What could cause the changes? Where do we get our ideas of what is acceptable in society today?  Could a desire for control be an important component in Leesa Streifler’s artwork?
  • Why did Streifler alter photographs of herself rather than photographs taken of another individual? Why do you think she is wearing those particular clothes? What do the outfits she has chosen to wear suggest? What does her body language suggest?
  • Does Streifler play with ideas of female attractiveness as promoted by the mass media? What is the ideal of beauty in our culture?  Do the works question societal ideas of conformity and the need to be accepted or “normal“? 
  • What do you think Streifler is saying about sexuality and the stereotypes related to it? How does she suggest the idea of woman as an object, rather than woman as a thinking and productive individual? Do we live in a male-dominated culture?
  • Streifler incorporates text in Adaptations #60 stating, “If I had the energy, I'd try to seduce you”. To seduce can mean to persuade through deception. Streifler claims she has no energy for this. Why do you think she has no energy? Is she beautiful now? Humour often incorporates irony, sarcasm, mockery or biting wit.  Irony can be something absurd or laughable that occurs when there is incongruity between what happens and what might be expected to happen. Is there some irony in this image? What was Streifler wearing in the photograph?  Why did she create the new image over the existing image?  What does Streifler suggest about documentation by altering the photograph?
Studio Activity
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Look again at Leesa Streifler’s Adaptations.

  • After viewing this work, discuss self-image and other issues or thoughts that may surface.
  • Have a photograph taken of your whole body.
  • Reproduce and enlarge this photographic image three or four times with a zerox machine.
  • Think about how this image could be altered to suggest who you really are, how you would like to appear, and what you think.
  • Use black felt markers and white pencil crayon to draw over your black and white photographs.
  • Include text to enhance or reinforce your image.



  • Find images in magazines and the media of people considered "beautiful" in popular culture.
  • Cut, reorganize and alter these images to make a statement about some of the ways the media affects consumer choices and self-concept.
  • Include some humorous elements and text in your message.


Discuss puns, satire, sarcasm and irony

Incorporate the use of humour in a  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (  or painting.


Beatty, Greg.  ‘Leesa Streifler:  Normal.’  Artichoke, Vol. 10 No. 2, 1998.   Retrieved from the Internet on August 12, 2008 from:

Bouchard, Gilbert A.  ‘Normal: Exploring the Body Real.’  Latitude 53, Society of Artists Newsletter, August 9, 1999.

Karlinsky, Amy.  Contained.  Exhibition catalogue.  Neutral Ground, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2003.


Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning