Sunday, October 22, 2006

Female art

First, we would have to make a distinction between female art and Feminist art. Whereas the first is a label for art made by women, the latter addresses very specific socio-political issues regarding the exploitation of women by men. 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 Modern art history). 1- An important alert to feminist issues came in the 1970’s, with artist Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, a work that used several traditionally “feminine” art-mediums to teach women’s history (Chicago’s work represents the ways in which feminists began to explore their oppression through art). Why is it that the early avant-garde (Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Futurism, De Stijl, etc) were essentially male-driven movements? 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, among many others. 2- Since the 1960’s female art has brought forth a new attention to materials: ceramics, latex, rubber, fiberglass and yarn. There is a return to fiber media: weaving, quilt-making, etc. Formally, female art is generally characterized by a biomorphic, more fluid focus. In performance/art, video and photography, women have explored gestures of objectification and exploitation from a different perspective than those found in male performances (which tend to be more heroic). 3- Although art is universal, the claim that art has no gender is not necessarily true (See post-feminism). Can you think of particular female art themes? Go ahead.


Michele Rowand said...

Female art themes? - the first ideas that pop into my head are Georgia OKeefe - where flowers are explored as representations of female genitalia. Then vessel forms come to mind - things that represent gestation, birth and family. I've been around working women all of my life but no matter what the experience in the work place, hearth and home, constantly call to her.

Also coming to mind, is Marie Cassat and her intimate portraits of people in daily life. "Little girl in Blue" is a casual glimpse of a moment. Those moments in the home that are cherished were caught in her work.

In the ceramic classes I've taken there are usually many more women then men. Again I see the appeal to women in the relationship between the vessel form, the hearth and home, etc.

As more woman reach into all realms of the work place, as traditional families get redefined, as woman get more educated, the gender line becomes less significant but as long as woman experience the world as a vessel herself with the ability both to birth and to be violated, I think those topics will show up female art like it wouldn't in masculine art.

A.T. said...

Michele: Both your examples are fitting. My intention was to bring female art produced since the 1960's, particularly because of the feminist contributions to art making.

maya aujla said...

When you say female art themes, the first thing I think of are the environments created in “Womanhouse” by Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago. The all-female space was designed and executed by the students involved in the Feminist Art Program at CalArts in the early 1970’s. Many of the women artists working on “Womanhouse” created these environments based on personal experiences. The environmental installations expressed the issues of self-esteem and self-image that the women were dealing with. Some of these major themes that were represented in the rooms were based around the idea of emotional and physical stress that each woman goes through in their daily lives. For example, “Shoe Closet” by Beth Bachenheimer, was one of the installations in “Womanhouse” of a closet completely filled with shoes. The installation represented the many ways a woman could change her identity or self-image. “Shoe Closet” also shows the stress that women go through to uphold the preconceived image their husbands have of what a wife should be. “Womanhouse” was a break through for female art that helped pave the way for all female artists in the 1970’s and on.

Ernie Marc Selditch said...

Gender Art.

Once again I have to throw in my anthropological two cents. If we go back to the ancient foraging societies, hunter gatherers, there was a definite dividing line between roles of men and women, with shaman as a third gender or genderless roles.

Men hunted, made weaponry, decorated it, and preformed sympathetic magic. For example men danced and jabbed a spear at another who was wearing an animal hide. This performance was thought to gain power or luck to insure a successful hunt. Men’s art included, body painting, decoration, weapon decoration and adornment, preparatory costume, men’s lodge decoration. Other rituals celebrated rites of passage.

Women foraged near camp, created household items, cooked and raised children. They also had rituals that revolved around hearth, children, and village. These rituals were also celebrated by body art, ornament, and dress. For example think of all the symbolism of the marriage ritual. Women’s art was molded by differing gender roles in their society and the culture designed to ensure a survival and more hopefully a level of comfort.

The materials used for art varied with gender in that it was available in proximity with the roles people had. Men carved wood with their weapons, performed scarification and tattooing with their pointed weapons. Women created fiber art, dyes, cloth, household items, and jewelry with material near the camp.

Shamen, being either male or female were not tied to the routines of hunting or hearth like their tribesmen, in that the physical space they operated in was not restricted to the gender based roles of the tribe. Their art, included masks and costume for disguising or separating them from the everyday tribal roles.

As societies became sedentary and the foraging gender roles shifted to agrarian gender roles, the need for artistic gender differentiation diminished. As tribal and communities became more specialized and extended family became more tenuous, the difference between the sexes in the creation of art has become a question of, if gender has any actual influence in the creation of art objects or concepts other than some good old boy gallery owners favoring male artists. I think all the arts today are genderless unless the artist intent is to instill gender or gender statements in them.

Christie Llorente said...

I would consider art in general to be genderless, unless the artist would specifically want it to have some kind of gender meaning/purpose attached to the work. I understand the differences between female art and feminist art, but where do you determine that fine line.

If you believe that women should be equal to men,then I think you are a feminist to some degree. Society has gone through cycles where being a feminist had a positive connotation and sometimes a negative connotation. In the 1960s, many female artists were not afraid to call themselves feminists, it was a positive thing. I think that now people associate the word "feminist" as something negative. Are they afraid to be criticized?

One of the subjects that has not really been explored or portrayed in the history of art making has been about child birth. It is very surprising to me because it is perhaps one of the most significant things that can happen in a woman's life. Women give birth to the world and yet the subject matter is not seen that much in art. Judy Chicago's Birth Project comes to mind when dealing with this subject matter.

Jessica Sanders said...

There is so much more to what a woman is than her relationship to men in our society, which it seems feminism focuses on. As a woman, there are so many other subjects and ideas to speak on. By speaking out about things in the world through art, offering unique concepts and ideas, a woman is practicing the feminist ideal, even if she is not speaking directly about it. Women are different than men, and it's ok
if they have a different voice and a different point of view. Feminism
has a way of homogenizing the genders into a blurred unisex
uni-person. I want to hear what women have to say, and not just about what they have to say about their relationship to men. Woman
stand-alone. I want to hear what they have to say about everything in the world, I want to share their perspectives, and I hope that it's different than that of men. Different doesn't mean better or worse, it's just keeps things interesting. If women are different than men,they are not lesser because of it.