All posts tagged art review

"Her There From Here" (2008)

I am concerned with psychological and emotional states and the tensions within them: rage and tenderness, confrontation and concealment, empathy and autonomy. I am fascinated by the history of portraiture in painting and by the ways in which changing conventions reflect ideas about gender.  -Haynes

Clarity Haynes is a contemporary American artist working in a realistic style, utilizing soft chalk pastel to create life-like depictions of women, and in her most well-known project, women’s torsos.

Breast Portrait Installation (2011)

Entitled the Breast Portrait Project, Haynes focuses exclusively upon women’s bodies and particularly upon their torsos and breasts. Usually artistic depictions of bodies without faces seem objectifying, appear to drain the personality and the perceived value of a person from the image. Haynes’ work is different in that it doesn’t objectify, it celebrates! These bodies have personality, they differ in unique and intriguing ways. In fact, Haynes is referencing and questioning our society’s conflation of faces with identities. In Haynes’ own words,

The face is our commonly recognized self – our “mask” of identity. Focusing exclusively on the torso shines a light on a part of the individual that is usually hidden. Each torso bears traces of unique personal experience: tattoos, childbirth, aging, stretchmarks and surgical interventions.

I’ve seen some discussion on whether Haynes’ work still objectifies women’s bodies, as her portraits don’t include faces. This is a brilliant response to the discussion. I personally feel that this is a healthy attitude to take, where we don’t behave as though we’re blind to others’ bodies, but that we’re conscious of them. We respect them. And that we don’t negatively judge them for differing from societal norms. Faces will distract from bodies in works of art as people viewing a painting, drawing, or photograph often disproportionately focus on faces rather than the overall figure. I think that choosing to exclude faces from these portraits is a reflection of the artist’s carefully considered choices, and I applaud the thought she’s put into her explanation. I also think that her photographs of women with their portraits fully addresses any remaining concerns of objectification. Read more →

Usually when I see an artist (particularly student artists) working with collage I can’t quite shake off the feeling that they’re being lazy.

I’m sure this stems from far too many camp collaging experiences where we just smothered the covers of our journals with chopped up magazines and modge podge, and I also have the nagging feeling that it’s because many of my peers actually are being lazy (I’ve seen far too many half-baked collages thrown together hours before a critique). Collage always struck me as something that may turn out looking wonderful but often lacking in meaning and depth. Appropriating the work of others as the only means of expression in your artwork feels too similar to so many Tumblrs with collage acting as the art world’s reblogging feature.

So when I see Martha Rosler’s work I’m always pleasantly surprised. It goes against all of my preconceived notions about collage (which I’m working on. Sorry to all of those out there who love collage, I’m sure your work is wonderful!). Her work has an emotional value that it might not have in any other medium. By using pre made images Rosler is manipulating the work of popular society into a form of social activism. For example, in her most well known series, Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, Rosler appropriates images found in homemaking women’s magazines of the period and juxtaposes them with violent imagery from the Vietnam war.

"Beauty Rest" (1967-72)

We see happy American families enjoying suburban bliss as bloodshed and chaos occur in the background or foreground. Even as violence occurs directly in front of the subject they smile with happy naivety. 

"Cleaning the Drapes" (1967-72)

"First Lady (Pat Nixon)" (1967-72)

Interestingly, Rosler has reprised this body of work, applying the same method of juxtaposition to images from current American women and lifestyle magazines and the war in Iraq. Some critics feel that this shows a lack of imagination and innovation on Rosler’s part, but others (including myself) find it interesting that Rosler is examining today’s events and today’s media imagery with the same eye as in the late 60’s and early 7o’s. The similarities between the two series of images is uncanny. The two bodies of work seem to meld together, and barring the advances in technology could be part of the same set of work.

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There are some artists I have to love for their work, and then there are artists like Mary Heilmann, who I mainly love for something else. With Heilmann, she has an incredibly magnetic personality. She has this urge to be in the spotlight and has always chosen the most dramatic options available to her. 

Mary Heilmann

 My 2D design class watched an episode of Art21 featuring both Mary Heilmann and Jeff Koons. While we had all heard of Koons’ work none of us had heard of Heilmann. Upon viewing her paintings we didn’t think they were anything special. Us students are impressed by things that are flashy, exciting, maybe a little bit taboo (This always reminds me of something I heard from one of my teachers at the Cranbrook summer camp: “If you can’t paint well, paint red. If you can’t paint red, paint big. And if you can’t paint big, paint shiny”. If anyone knows who my teacher was quoting I would appreciate you letting me know!). And Heilmann’s work? Heilmann’s work was small. It was colorful, but not in a way we found to be special. And her composition and subject choice at first seemed lacking.

However, as we continued on through the episode we started to feel two things. 

  1. Jeff Koons should really stop trying to excuse the fact that he has workers who physically make the pieces he designs. We knew and accepted this from the start, and the defensiveness just make him appear to feel guilty.
  2. Mary Heilmann may be one of the most entertaining Art21 artists we had ever watched. Her amazing personality extended to her work, which became interesting, groundbreaking. It was subversive and surprising in a way that was less overt than Koons’ sculptures. 

"Go Ask Alice" (2006)

Heilmann originally studied ceramics, and we can see the influence of ceramics upon work  throughout her career. While many artists treat a canvas as merely a two dimensional object, flat surfaces with sides only acting as extra, rather than a part of the work, Heilmann treats her canvases as three dimensional pieces. She’s quoted as saying,
First they’re objects and then they’re pictures of something.
We can see this in her use of nontraditional canvas shapes and thus her incorporation of the sides of canvases and the walls into her work. We also see this in her use of other three dimensional objects, such as brightly painted chairs to slide around and view her work in.

The viewer would sit in these chairs and view Heilmann's paintings. They gave the audience the ability to roll around the gallery.

The thing that my class loved so much about Heilmann was her desire to be contrary. To go against what was popular at the time (in this case, nontraditional materials in sculpture, ceramics, etc) and embrace what was considered a bit passe (the seemingly less and less important field of painting). Despite defying some of her ceramics teacher’s requests and often making work that they did not like, Heilmann won awards and made a number of useful connections at this time. These connections are part of the reason she left the field of ceramics and entered the field of painting. As she entered New York in 1968 her goal was still to excel at nontraditional materials and “play with the boys”, the boys being renowned artists such as Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and Donald Judd. However, the art world was still very much a boys only club, and Heilmann found it difficult to gain acceptance into this group of sculptors. Heilmann, of course, didn’t give up. She instead defiantly refocused her efforts on a field many sculptors of the 60’s looked down upon, painting. In fact, Heilmann said of this shift,

I wanted to be on the edge. Original. And that meant going against the status quo.

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Today I’m going to talk about an artist you’ve likely heard of, Artemisia Gentileschi. Or rather, most of us have heard of her as the woman artist who was raped and then spent the rest of her career depicting her personal revenge upon men in her artwork.

Which, in case you were wondering, is complete and utter crap. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, some background!

Sidenote: Generally I refer to artists by their last names, but as I’ll be discussing both Artemisia and her father Orazio in this post I’ll be using first names. Not pulling a Bill Clinton is Clinton, but Hillary Clinton is Hillary type thing!

Artemisia's "Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting"

During the 1600’s women were not well received as artists, and needed exceptional circumstances (read: either money or privilege and often both) to pursue artistic careers. Apprenticeships were generally only open to young men. Women who wanted to go into art had to be either wealthy, born to an artist, or go into a convent that produced artwork. Artemisia Gentileschi was lucky enough to be born to the painter Orazio, opening doors that would be closed to many other women of the time period.

Not to say that she owes her success to her father. Artemisia was incredibly talented. Her technique and her unique perspective on frequently used artistic subject matter separates her from other artists of the time. She’s one of the few women artists who is consistently featured in art history classes, often the only woman artist. In my high school art history class she was the only woman artist we learned about before the 1900s.

So Artemisia was able to apprentice under her father. She learned much of her stylistic techniques from Orazio, who followed Caravaggio’s style. However, Artemisia’s work is much more naturalistic compared to Orazio’s idealization.

Orazio's "Madonna with Child"

This is when things become truly depressing. Artemisia was denied entrance into the all-male academies of art because of her sex. Women were not allowed in the academies, no matter their level of talent. Seeing as how Artemisia was incredibly talented and deserved to become an artist, Orazio asked one of his peers, Agostino Tassi, to privately tutor her. Under his tutelage Tassi raped Artemisia, and then coerced her into continued sexual relations with the promise of marriage. Once Artemisia realized that Tassi would never fulfill this promise she told her father what had happened. Orazio sued and Tassi pulled out all of the stops, having friends claim to have also slept with Artemisia, and generally damaging her reputation in any way he could. It eventually came out that Tassi was already married. Tassi was allowed to choose between jail time and exile from Rome. He chose the latter, but returned only four months later.

A horrible experience for anyone to go through. And to make it even worse, it would define her artwork in the eyes of historians and critics for a very long time.

More after the jump! Read more →

Faith Ringgold is an incredibly impressive woman. An artist of many techniques, her story quilts, soft sculptures, and masks always contained strong themes of identity and women’s strength. She was an enthusiastic participant in the black activist community and in the feminist movement from the 1970’s onward.

Faith Ringgold

 Considering her fervor for the feminist movement, it’s interesting to note that she did not always enthusiastically support feminism. In Ringgold’s own words:

In the 1970’s, being black and a feminist was equivalent to being a traitor to the cause of black people. “You seek to divide us,” I was told. “Women’s Lib is for white women. The black woman is too strong now—she’s already liberated.” 

Eventually Ringgold came to disagree with those rejecting feminism, recognizing that in some ways sexism negatively affected her life and career more than racism, as sexism was present not only in the outside world but in her own family and community. Ringgold became very vocal about the need for equality in the art world, both racial equality and equality between the sexes, establishing a theme we see running throughout her artwork.

"The Flag is Bleeding" 1967

"Woman Freedom Now" 1971

Ringgold’s activism is fascinating to learn about. For the sake of simplicity here are the three events she’s most well known for presented in convenient bullet point form!

Read more after the jump!

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Harriet Hosmer was an American woman sculptor working in Rome in the 1800s. Her work isn’t necessarily something I personally love, but I really respect her mastery of technique and her impact upon the artistic world. She’s often ignored in history books, but with the recent resurgence of feminist art historians searching for overlooked women in art history, I feel that she will become more renowned and admired as time goes on.

Hosmer's "Oenone"

I wrote a paper about Hosmer and Hiram Powers last quarter, comparing how the two were treated by historians and critics and how that may have been affected by her gender. I’m actually very excited about this paper (From which I will be stealing much of this post). My incredibly badass and inspiring teacher, Dr. Tina Lent, submitted it for the Akyuz-Ozmen Award for excellence in feminist scholarship, part of RIT’s Kearse awards, and it won! Thank you art and feminism! You never lead me astray…

But back to the artists. Looking at their careers, it’s very obvious that gender played a huge role in how their work was received and how their careers played out. Hosmer was generally treated much more critically than Powers. Her work was often attributed to other artists, including to her teacher John Gibson (a great sculptor in his own right) as well as to her workmen.

The defining scandal of Hosmer’s career lay with what many consider her greatest work, Zenobia in Chains. This sculpture is very similar in subject and style to Hiram Power’s renowned The Greek Slave. In fact, it was and still is frequently compared to Power’s piece. However, while Powers was given large amounts of adulation for his sculpture, Hosmer faced accusations about her integrity and ability to sculpt. Because of Hosmer’s sex, many questioned her ability to work with the heavy tools and solid stone, citing her fragility and delicacy as a woman. Members of the art community accused Hosmer of hiring workmen to create the sculpture without her input, printing slander in periodicals and newspapers of the time including Art Journal and The Queen. Hosmer did use carvers and assistants to create the piece, a practice that was typical of her time. While prominent sculptors would conceptualize and create the piece in clay it was left to assistants to actually carve the finished marble. This was done to save time as sculptors of her caliber were often called upon to create more and more work, including copies of previous works. Hosmer defended this practice in an issue of The Atlantic Monthly saying

“We women-artists have no objection to its being known that we employ assistants; we merely object to its being supposed that it is a system peculiar to ourselves”

Hosmer's "Zenobia in Chains" and Powers' "The Greek Slave"

Hosmer fully understood the accusations against her, and made her point well; men sculptors used assistants too, it was not a “weakness” specific to women sculptors. In fact, Hiram Powers also used assistants to carve his work. Using the same process as Hosmer, Powers would sculpt a clay model and have his studio assistants carve the final piece. Unlike Hosmer, Powers did not face any accusations of not creating his own work.

More after the jump!

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I have been incredibly busy (and some could say lazy) lately. Classes, clubs, reading the entire internet, all of a sudden it’s two weeks later and nary a post in sight.

But fear not! For as an apology, I present to you a post with plenty of nudity…

And plenty of discussion on the implications of nudity in regards to men and women in art (you thought you would get to just enjoy some attractive naked men and women? Sorry!). First point of discussion: you would not believe how long it took me to find these few good examples of the male nude.

Well, that’s not entirely what I was searching for. I can immediately think of a number of examples of naked men as subject (particularly including contemporary work). For instance, a lot of paintings and statues by Michelangelo, ancient Roman and Greek nudes, work by artists such as Lucian Freud, Robert Mapplethorpe, the list goes on. So let me rephrase.

You would not believe how long it took me to find good examples of the sensual male nude.

More after the jump!

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My last post on weight issues in the art world made me want to further investigate specific artists. In this case, Jenny Saville. She’s an incredible artist who utilizes mark making and sophisticated application of paint to create figure paintings of large women, working with how women are viewed by men, by themselves, and how we as a society perceive gender (among many other interesting topics).

For my Women/Gender/Art class we wrote research papers on women artists throughout history and how their work related to gender, or how their gender caused historians and critics to treat them differently from male contemporaries of their time. I really wanted to compare and contrast the depiction of the female nude by Jenny Saville and Will Cotton, but alas, they were rejected as too recent… Instead I went with Harriet Hosmer and Hiram Powers, which was interesting as well, but my research paper writing heart truly belongs to my original topic!

Saville's "Propped" and Cotton's "Cotton Candy Clouds". Their depictions of the female nude are so vastly different. It's enough to make me actually want to write a research paper.

But enough of those dreams, that paper can wait for another day!

Today I want to focus on Saville.

More after the jump!

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My drawing class began a new project today; recreating a work by an impressionist artist.

I don’t usually go for reproducing work. The thought and care that went into creating that piece, the composition, the color choices, the entire idea, everything is already there. So what I’m creating isn’t meaningful or innovative, it’s just a copy. However, I understand that some pieces aren’t about the finished product, they’re about the learning experience, and as a first year I’d like to improve my technique as much as possible.

I arrived at class with the three images I was considering working from. A Degas:

A Monet:

And a Gauguin:

Interestingly, some people had pieces that were obviously not by impressionist artists. In fact, two separate people had been fooled by Lucian Freud’s work, one student only bringing in three Freud paintings.

Our teacher surveyed the wall, “Jeremy*,” he said with a sigh, “could you tell me why you chose those images?”

Jeremy still didn’t realize his mistake, and began to talk about this painting:

“Well,” he said, “I liked this piece because it’s so grotesque”.

At this point the majority of the room laughed.

“It’s just that, look at this woman, and imagine doing that gesture. And as you keep working it’s just becoming grosser and grosser as you draw and paint more. She’s huge and there’s all of these flaps of flesh. That’s why I picked it”.

Everyone in the room is smiling. Some people nod their heads in agreement.

“That’s great Jeremy, but this piece isn’t impressionist. It’s by Lucian Freud…” My teacher explained Jeremy’s mistake, but not the mistake that I’d like to talk about.

More after the jump!

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There comes a point in time where every college art student realizes that everything, and I mean everything they made in high school sucked.

You may fight it. You may say, “But wait, my work was the best in the class! My teachers loved it and I got the blue ribbon in the “Insert generic town name here” art festival!”

Well, it may have been good in comparison to other high school work, but compared to what you can and (possibly) will do? It sucked.

I remember how excited I was about my work from highschool. The colors were so great! The people were only vaguely misshapen! And the subject was so clever and unique!


And thus, I get to the point of this post. I am going to try to go back and review the work I made in high school with a clearer eye. I am going to try to talk about my work without bias (I may not always succeed, but hey, I get points for trying, right?). The work I review will be from my breadth and concentration for AP studio art, and possibly other pieces I feel are relevant. I may not cover everything and I can’t promise that I’ll go in order, seeing as how I don’t exactly remember the order, but I’ll try to make this a fairly regular feature of this blog. Hopefully by going back and realizing the mistakes I was making in the past I can improve the work I’m making now.

So let’s begin:

Helios: God of the Sun

More after the jump!

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