Don’t you just love it when poetic men insist that women are stand-ins for something other than, well, women? Shakespeare famously compared his lady love to a summer’s day, while Lord Byron reckoned his to “the night of cloudless climes and starry skies.” In Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence linked women to primroses and figs. And Ernest Hemingway’s old fisherman construes the ocean as a woman, deploying pronouns accordingly: “The old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours....”

Artist Eva Lake tackles such hackneyed nonsense head-on in her thought-provoking collage series, Anonymous Women. She composes each piece with imagery culled from old fashion magazines, superimposing cut-up images of women (mostly fashion models from the pre-supermodel era) atop different backdrops. In Anonymous Woman No. 25 and No. 71, there are trees in the background; in 36, 53 and 58, it's the ocean; in No. 6, the moon; and in No. 4, a spiraling galaxy. 

What else is a woman? No. 15 depicts a woman's face on a carpet, ready to be trod underfoot. In No. 27, a face hovers over an ornate sitting room, while in No. 55, a pair of eyes and bangs hang on the wall inside a picture frame. The point here is blunt: Women are all too often treated as if they're interchangeable with décor. Pointedly, Lake shows only the women's eyes, lips and hair, as if in response to late Pop artist Tom Wessellmann, who painted every part of a woman's body except her face.

Also a gifted writer and the host of KBOO's Art Focus, Lake has a unique take on the objectification of women. She's worked off and on as a makeup artist for many years, so she knows a thing or two about artifice. No doubt she's covered up many a plastic-surgery scar in this line of work—a tie-in with the sliced-and-diced faces in her collages. This backstory lends a welcome ambiguity to the artwork. Is Lake denouncing cultural beauty norms or celebrating them?  Her critique is more third-wave feminist than second. It isn't black-and-white, and it's not gray, either; it's in pastels, jewel tones and hard metallic gloss. She invites viewers to be simultaneously appalled and charmed by historical representations of the feminine—a trope that, deconstructed as it has been, still manages to remain mysterious.

GO: Anonymous Women is at Augen Gallery, 716 NW Davis St., 546-5056. Through April 26.