Sunday, October 9, 2005

Female Art

Feminism is right about the suppression and dislocation of women from the public sphere since the Renaissance until the end of the Twentieth Century (just look at the disproportion of male and female artists in art history). The early avant-garde (Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Futurism, De Stijl, etc) are essentially male-driven. Compare the number of male artists of renown with the handful of female artists of early and mid-20th Century, such as Natalja Goncharova, Sonia Delaunay and Hanna Höch and then Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe. I don’t want to dwell in the causes of this phenomenon, which has been well-documented by Feminists such as Simone De Beauvoir in The Second Sex, Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectics of Sex or Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice. Since the 1960’s women’s art has brought forth a new attention to materials: latex, rubber, fiberglass and yarn. There is a return to fiber media: weaving, quilts, etc. Formally, there’s a biomorphic, softer more fluid focus. In performance/art, women have explored gestures of objectification and exploitation which we don’t find in male performances (they tend to be more heroic). Art is universal, but the claim that art has no gender is a distortion of reality. In fact, the trained eye can tell the difference. These are some of the most important female artists working today.

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