Mona Lisa Smileless, Mixed media installation, Dimensions variable, 2010

“A wall often has two distinct sides, and you either stand on one.”

Shaw’s displaced two-sided wall installation challenges the conventional exhibition space’s presenting/viewing experience. Because the spectator can only be on one side of the wall, the spectators on the other side of the wall passively become part of the artwork. This is the paradoxical and metaphoric response when anyone addresses gender issues.

At first glance, there appears to be a urinal on the wall, but here it is not a toilet. With a second glance, it becomes evident that it is not a urinal but a squat toilet. Then, chatting with your companions, you walk closer, not realizing that the conversation can be overheard clearly on the other side of the wall…

The title “Mona Lisa Smileless” was inspired by a Chinese squat toilet brand, so it’s merely a coincidental resemblance to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” (1503) and Marcel Duchamp’s “L.H.O.O.Q.” (1919) and “Fountain,” (1917).

“Mona Lisa” expresses Leonardo’s belief in the “sacred feminine;” the title is a coded reference to the Egyptian gods Amon and Isis, “Mona” being an anagram of the former and “Lisa” being a contraction of l’Isa, meaning Isis. This hidden reference is supposed to signify Leonardo’s secret opposition to Orthodox Christianity and his belief in the ideal union of masculine and feminine principles, as does the sitter’s androgynous features.

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