Assumed Identities: Photographs by Anne Noggle, on view at the New Mexico Museum of Art through September 11, features a handful of Noggle’s student work from the University of New Mexico, from 1967 through 1970, portraits of friends and family, and a selection of her better-known self-portraits. Though Noggle, who died in 2005, may not be familiar to some viewers, several of her works have become well known, in large part for being at the vanguard of photographic practice rooted in feminist ideals of empowerment and individuality. These include: Face-lift No. 3 (1975), Self-image in Cochiti Lake (1978), Myself as a Pilot (1982), and the gloriously unabashed first image of the series Stellar by Starlight (1986), in which a naked, bespectacled Noggle stands in a hot tub with arms raised above her head – adorned with a tiara before two young men. Noggle once stated: “The image I seek is of youth betrayed by age, of spirit strong but fragile with time.”
A trailblazer in many ways, Noggle achieved the rank of Captain in the United States Air Force and subsequently flew as a crop duster and an airshow pilot. She didn’t attend college until the age of 38 and didn’t begin her photography career until she was 43, though prior to her college graduation, she became the first curator of photography at the New Mexico Museum of Art (1970 76). In her facelift series, which predates the more politicized self-portraits by British photographer Jo Spence, she documents herself in bandages, with stitches and scars. “I’ve always been fascinated by something about my face,” she once said, “and it’s interesting to see the changes and reverse them but at the same time see that they’re taking place anyway.” In later years, Noggle made self-portraits in various guises, not unlike Cindy Sherman, and, like Sherman, Noggle was her own best subject.