Autostraddle’s giving February an Art Attack theme! Head on over to check out the growing number of articles on LGBTQ and feminist art.
So far they have an artist spotlight on Gluck, a queer oil painter from the late 1800s/early 1900s, a gallery of work by one hundred queer artists, and a ton of other artist spotlights and show reviews. Keep an eye out over the following month for some interesting pieces on gender, sexuality, and art!
While most artists incorporate the use of photography in their work, many won’t admit it. There’s a widespread belief that working from a photograph is worse than working from real life or from your imagination. As far as I can gather, the idea for most photography shunning artists is that it’s too easy to translate a 2D image to a 2D work, while the idea for most non-artists is that the photographic image is already in existence, so what’s the point?
To any photorealism shunning audience members, I ask you to suspend your disbelief for a short while, and take a look at the work of Audrey Flack:
Interesting, isn’t it? And a style that, while naturalistic, I don’t think that you can claim is derivative of a photograph. A photo of a similar still life would lack the vibrancy, the sense of movement, the certain je ne sais quoi that this work has.
Audrey Flack is a photorealist (hyper realist, super realist…) printmaker, sculptor, and as we’ll be focusing on here, painter known primarily for her work throughout the 1970s and 80s. She is one of the founding mothers of the photorealist movement, and her work has helped to legitimize the idea of working from a photograph.
Even amongst the other pioneers of photorealism Flack encountered adversity. Her subject matter was considered too feminine, too emotional for the seemingly never-ending stream of masculine cars, empty and passionless streets, and coolly-toned portraits of her contemporaries. As Flack stated in regards to such criticism, “I painted what was around me and what I was interested in. This was then deemed “feminine” subject matter. I just happened to be a woman”. To an extent, I agree with critics on this. Flack’s work is arguably very feminine. The subject matter are objects generally owned by women and many of her paintings have feminist undertones. However, this became one of the main insults directed towards her work as critics and contemporaries insinuated that her paintings were somehow “too feminine” to be photorealist, too tied to her emotions to be compared to the work of Estes and Close. Which I personally find ridiculous. Many of Close’s paintings, in particular, are fairly emotional. Take a look at this portrait created around the same time as Flack’s “too feminine” paintings.
I would hardly call this unemotional. I would also say that the portrait is highly masculine. The subject is looking down at us, placing himself in a position of power. His gaze could be read as one of contempt, as a cigarette (Masculine!) droops from his lips. Yet, are there complaints that this is too masculine? And for that matter, if artwork can become too feminine or too masculine then are we striving for androgyny? It seems as though only one end of our gender spectrum is considered unsuitable as a subject of art. In fact, I would claim that in the photorealist time period anything not decisively male would not be considered high art.
Of course, I can see how you could argue that this piece is not masculine in the way that Flack’s piece is feminine. And thus we get to the work of Tom Blackwell.
It’s like we’re bathing in testosterone! Cars and bikes! Fuck yeah! Read more →
As part of my art gallery management class I’m starting to read Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton. The book is sectioned into seven chapters, seven days, detailing very different art world hubs; work seen and written about in magazines, the Venice biennale, the development of the studio visit, and much more.
While reading chapter one, “The Auction”, I noticed a recurring theme; masculine imagery and language as well as an overwhelming feeling of non women-friendly space.
This chapter is about art auction houses, with a focus on Christies in New York. I think that one of the reasons we’re able to sense the male dominance of the auction house is that we’re lucky enough to have a woman’s perspective, Thornton’s; an art historian, sociologist, and writer who has written about the art world for publications such as Artforum, the New Yorker and more.
Throughout the chapter Thornton paints a picture of the auction house as being a somewhat sexual, and almost disturbingly violent experience. We get comparisons to gladiatorial spectacles paired with men likening the thrill of a purchase to sexual conquest, jokes equating the auction house to a whore house. There’s one telling bit where Thornton writes about the auctioneer’s hammer (I don’t want to be that feminist/artist who thinks everything is phallic, but damn. This paragraph was very double entendre-y.) as a passer of judgment and punishment. A carrot dangled in front of the bidders. She writes, “Then, in a blink, he hits everyone but the highest bidder with a stick, as if all the seduction and violence of the art market were represented in the rhythm of a single lot”.
We find a great example in the words of one of Thorntorn’s interviewees, influential art consultant Philippe Ségalot. Ségalot says of his work, “buying is an extremely satisfying, macho act”.
Another interviewee, artist Keith Tyson, says of competitive feel of the auction floor, “The sale is infectious. You feel the thrill of capitalism and you get into a sort of alpha-male mentality”.
The idea of art world buyers as alpha-males is threaded throughout the chapter. Not always explicitly stated, but implied through the language of both Thornton and those she spoke to.
In researching art auction houses, Thornton witnessed the sale of a Marlene Dumas piece for $1.1 million, making Dumas one of the three living women artists (at the time of the sale in 2001, since then several more women have joined the ranks) whose work has been sold for over $1 million. In a footnote Thornton speculates that the gaps in prices between work by male and female artists is due to the largely male dominated field of big-spending collectors undervaluing women’s artwork.
Many people think that the art world has attained gender equality. I find that many of my peers think that the art world is actually skewed towards favoring women because of the hugely imbalanced ratio of women to men in art schools. But this is not really the case. While we may have more women going to school pursuing artistic careers we still have a largely male-dominated field in “the real world”. The field of buyers is largely comprised of men, and powerful gallery owners and curators tend to be men as well. So really, the large amounts of women in art schools could be viewed as a bad sign. Because if we’re educating so many women in the arts, why are those same women not able to find work in the field following graduation? Read more →
I’m excited to say that I started taking Survey of Western Art and Architecture yesterday. I’m looking forward to refreshing my memory of (and learning more about) western art history as well as applying a more critical eye to works of art and participating more in discussion of the work.
One of the things I really found interesting in the first class was discussion of the portrayal of Charlotte Corday in paintings of the assassination of Marat. A lot of you are likely familiar with this painting:
This is a very well known piece by David, a neoclassical artist as well as an active supporter of the French Revolution. I’ll freely admit that although multiple teachers in multiple classes (both history and art) have taught the subject of this painting, it’s never really stuck until now. Marat was one of the leaders of the revolution. Very controversial in his tactics, he was recognized as both an influential, passionate orator and a violent, dangerous figure. Charlotte Corday believed him to be the latter. She felt that his aggressive actions in pushing for revolution would lead only to a regime filled with violence and death. Because of these beliefs, Corday sent Marat a letter claiming to have information useful to the revolution, gained access to his quarters, and then stabbed him in his bathtub.
What interests me is the variety of ways artists depict Corday. Notice how Corday is not included in David’s image. She’s represented instead by her letter to Marat, clutched in his hand.
Why is this? Corday was very much a part of the event. She was central to what happened. So why would she be excluded from the image?
My teacher presented a number of explanations for her exclusion. As a supporter of the revolution and of Marat, David was asked to paint this portrait following his death. And as a supporter, he depicted Marat as a martyr. Notice the soft light washing over Marat’s figure in comparison to the harsh light falling upon Corday’s note. See how Marat looks peaceful and healthy in death, although truthfully he was often violent and suffered from a malady of problems (which led him to take hours long baths, explaining why he was in the tub when he was assassinated). Marat is presented as someone innocent, someone graceful and elegant even in death. If Corday was included in this image it would detract from Marat’s importance. But not only would it distract from Marat, it would highlight the fact that someone, a woman, disagreed with Marat’s views. And how could a woman be so against Marat’s viewpoints that she would murder him? It went against the revolution’s very idea that women should be in the home, raising perfect little patriots. If a simple woman (let alone a purportedly beautiful woman) disagreed with Marat then why shouldn’t others?
And of course, as my teacher said, “David, not a feminist”. David felt that women were unimportant and didn’t want to depict one in a position of power in his work. We see this in other images of his, such as The Oath of the Horatii, in which he depicts men as sturdy, strong, and brave, while women are weak and weeping, all slumping curves compared to the men’s determined and powerful lines. Not to mention how the women physically take up far less space than the men. They’re presented as much smaller in stature and take up only 1/3 of the painting.
But back to Corday. My teacher compared David’s Death of Marat piece to this:
This image presents Corday as the focus. She may be in the corner, with a somewhat worried expression on her face, but she is definitely a participant in the event. You look at Corday first and then you notice Marat, slumped in the bathtub. There’s an interesting flipping of perspective here. In David’s painting Marat is the graceful, angelic martyr. In Baudry’s painting it’s Corday, pictured as sweet and beautiful, someone who could not be guilty of murder for no good reason.
Take a look at some other paintings depicting Corday’s assassination of Marat: Read more →
Seriously Chicago? You’re killing me with the whole, “great thing comes to town just when Melissa leaves” thing.
But I guess that’s just the way it goes sometimes. One day I’m lucky enough to run into a festival in Boystown or an interesting art exhibition in Hyde Park, the next I’m quietly glowering at my computer screen in Rochester. You win some, you lose some.
However, for all of you in the Chicago area there’s a great opportunity to learn about feminism in art! Tuesday at 4pm at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum there will be a number of interactive programs about feminism in art and arts education.
The show, Unfinished Business: Arts Education, will include fun opportunities to take advantage of the interrelations of democracy and art by printing and sending postcards to legislators and learning weaving techniques as demonstrated live by weaving a map of Chicago. The show is community curated and promotes the importance of the arts and of cultural rights as a necessity for successful democracy.
And not only will you be able to see this great show, but the Guerrilla Girls will be there.
As many of you likely know, the Guerrilla Girls are sort of like feminist superheroes of the art world. They don guerrilla masks and use humor, interesting design, and hard facts to teach the public about sexism and racism in the arts (not just the visual arts, they have projects dedicated to film, pop culture, politics, etc).
Basically, the Guerrilla Girls are badasses and you should go to their event where you can learn about the ever popular subject of reinventing the “f” word–feminism.
As if that’s not enough to convince you to go, it’s free! And there will be cupcakes!
So go on then, have fun! Let me live vicariously through you (But really, if you go, take pictures and tell me about it. I’ll pay you back with gratitude and the knowledge that I think you’re awesome!). You can read a little more about Unfinished Business here, and more about the Guerrilla Girls event here.
I just looked through the fantastic Art Works for Change’s virtual exhibition, Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women, and Art.
This exhibit includes the work of 28 contemporary women artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Yoko Ono, and Marina Abramovic. Addressing the issues of violence against girls and women around the globe, this exhibit uses the work of well known and respected artists to raise awareness of discrimination, domestic violence, and the exploitation of the female gender around the world. The range of which, in the curators own words, is “devastating, occurring, quite literally, from womb to tomb”. This exhibition aims to encourage women and men to stand up for social change.
The exhibit groups artwork into pieces that address Violence and the Individual, Violence and the Family, Violence and the Community, Violence and Culture, and Violence and Politics (As well as providing a helpful page of links to organizations addressing violence against women at the closing of the virtual tour).
The work can currently be seen at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta until September 9, and will travel to other locations after that.
It only takes around ten minutes to read through and view the images in the exhibit, more than worth the little time it takes! Click through to see it for yourself here.
As a college student I spend a decent amount of time thinking about my future. I want to be prepared when I graduate so that I can earn a living and not live in my parent’s basement (Haha, I would never live in the basement. That’s where my brother lives! I’d probably end up with my old room. Which is still depressing).
So I do things to prepare. And one of the steps to being able to graduate and function as a normal adult?
As an illustration major I’m really looking for internships in an art-related field. But since it’s the dramatically dramatic cutthroat world of art I’m not going to share those with you. However, as I search for those coveted art internships I also like to search for positions that I think look interesting or fun. Which in this case means internships with feminist organizations!
So here they are. Please enjoy.
NARAL Pro-Choice America: NARAL is an organization of women and men across the United States passionately defending a woman’s right to choose and protecting her full range of reproductive health options. They offer internships in special events, community outreach, policy, and more! If you’re a high school student I would recommend checking out NARAL Pro-Choice Washington’s internship specifically for high school students eager to organize on their own campus (I’m unsure if this is always an option). I met a student on the bus to the Rally for Women’s Health who organized for NARAL on her campus, she seemed to really enjoy it!
Feminist Majority Foundation: FMF is looking for some highly motivated undergrads who are interested in political science and public policy in regards to gender, human rights, and development. Positions available in Washington DC and LA for Spring, Summer, or Fall positions.
National Organization for Women: NOW is the largest feminist organization in the US today and the organization has fought to end gender inequality since 1966. As a NOW intern you’ll be on the front lines of the women’s rights movement. This internship will teach you the skills you need as an activist and leader in your community through workshops, field trips, and hands on experience. Check out their site to see the numerous internships they offer.
National Women’s Law Center: NWLC is a law center dedicated to using the law to protect and advance women’s and girls’ progress in every aspect of their lives. This group tackles issues directly affecting women’s and girls’ lives in employment, health, education, and economic security.
The Sex Workers Project: SWP provides legal training and services for sex workers as well as working with documentation and policy advocacy. The group protects the rights and safety of sex workers using a human rights and harm reduction model. This organization is looking for legal interns committed to advancing the rights of sex workers and trafficking survivors.
Choice USA: A national pro-choice organization, this group supports emerging leaders by providing the necessary tools to organize, network, and exchange ideas to pro-choice youth. Interns with Choice USA will gain inside understanding of the fight for reproductive rights at a local and federal level. Plus, this is a paid internship! It’s rare to find these in feminist organizations, like an internship unicorn.
BUST: Bust is a magazine full of attitude. Providing an uncensored view of the female experience, BUST speaks truthfully about women’s lives and shares womens’ perspectives on pop culture. In the site’s own words, they’re “BUSTing stereotypes about women since 1993″. BUST is also looking for a “webtern” in case you happen to be computer savvy.
Bitch Media: This organization is of the grassroots variety and relies strongly upon volunteers. Their mission is to provide and encourage an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream media and popular culture. Take a look at Bitch for internships in design, editorial, publishing and more.
Ms. Magazine: Ms. Magazine is said to have helped shape contemporary feminism, being the first national magazine to make feminist voices heard and feminist worldviews clear to the public. Ms. Magazine has covered topics such as abortion, domestic abuse, de-sexing the English language, date rape, and much more. Ms. offers internships in magazine marketing, advertising, writing, researching, and other areas of publication. They prioritize applicants with background in journalism and feminist activism. Read more →
Marie Watt is an artist I admire not only for the visually appealing work she produces but for the thought and meaning she puts behind each piece. Her quilts are all gorgeous and full of humans’ stories. In the artist’s words, “We are received in blankets, and we leave in blankets”.
Her blankets and quilts tell the stories of the humans who wear them, who use them as markers for important moments in their lives, and each piece says something about the ritual importance we place in objects. Her work is transformed as it is hung flat against a wall or curved to the contours of someone’s body. Watt wants to bring up our own memories of quilts and blankets that were worn and stretched out due to use, that hold memories of their own.
I was lucky enough to see one of her pieces at the National Museum of the American Indian and it was one of my favorite pieces in the museum. The whole collection of contemporary works (titled Vantage Point) was very interesting to view, and I learned a lot more about Native American artists (and about Native American cultures) working today. I would recommend this museum to anyone visiting DC. The artwork, the stories, and the gorgeous building (not to mention the fantastic food!) make the trip worthwhile.
The piece of Watt’s I saw was titled In the Garden (Corn, Beans, Squash).
This quilt’s title is from the story of the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters being corn, beans, and squash. These three food crops grow together in a way that supports and strengthens one another. We see their strength in how the structure on this quilt grows and moves powerfully into the sky. This quilt also has influence from the story of the Sky Woman falling to the earth with the diamond patterns suggesting Native American star quilts. While Watt draws from traditional Native American quilting patterns and techniques such as the star quilts she does not copy them directly. Take these star quilts (Not created by Watt) for instance:
We can see how Watt drew from the diamond structure of the star quilts, but she didn’t use the iconic star shape. Additionally, her piece has a sense of depth the traditional quilts lack as the diamond structure seems to twist and turn further and farther away from the viewer. By manipulating the diamond shapes Watt was able to give her quilt a sense of three-dimensionality. We also see a different, almost softer, color palette, as she sticks with colors in a red hue (with contained yellow accents), while the traditional star quilts use loud and often contrasting colors. Read more →
For those of you who don’t know, YouthNoise is a site catered towards youth activists, young people who want to change the world for the better. The energy is really incredible. The amount of positive people working for YouthNoise and posting on the site is inspiring (and a great response to those who say that kids nowadays just don’t care!) I’m the web content and design intern for the summer, so I’m the one updating the front page, creating banners, so on and so on. I’ll also be writing about women’s rights in my weekly blog posts.
For my first post I was really unsure of what I wanted to write. I didn’t want to start out covering the basics of women’s rights, as many site users are already well versed in the fight for gender equality and there are already a huge number of resources for feminism 101. For my first post I wanted to write about something that I was passionate about. So for a while I just worked on some design things and mulled over ideas.
And then as I was just sitting on the redline and staring at all of the buildings flashing past the windows I suddenly knew. It seemed like a great place to start.
First things first, I am in no way the first person to talk about this. This question is Linda Nochlin all the way. Her essay is far more fleshed out and intriguing than my YouthNoise rehashing is. But it seemed like a good topic, something I was comfortable discussing, and something that I thought would interest YouthNoise users. Not to mention something that interests me!
So there it is. Go ahead and click through if you want. Even if you’re not interested in my post there are a number of other posts by youth looking to make change that I think you’ll find interesting! There are people focusing on environmental issues, how sports can be used as a tool for social change, Asian Americans in the media, racism, and politics. So take a peek, share the site with your children, cousins, friends. Anyone you know who’s a youth making a difference in your community!
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.
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 →