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ART AND GENDER
docx with 1.1 1.2 2 3.1 3.2 are lectures, you just need to go over it to know about the course. aad_252_final.docx contains the artworks you can choice.
The rest are readings from each section of the lecture, you do not need to read all of them but to finish the paper you need to cite 3 of them(from different sections) and one reference you find one other reference online.
BRIEF OUTLINE OF SUGGESTED STEPS TO COMPLETE THE ASSIGNMENT:
1) Visit a site where you can find original artwork. The goal is for you to experience original artwork, not reproductions. Ideally, you will go to a physical space and interact with the artwork in some way. If you are unable to physically go to a space to view art, please contact me so we may discuss alternatives for you.
(You do not need to do this, I already take a tour, the artworks are in aad_252_final.docx)
2) Choose an artist/artwork (or several if it is a theme show) or juxtapose two differing artists/artworks whose art you think would make a good subject for a gender critique. It’s important for you to choose an artwork or artist whose work lends itself to this type of questioning strategy so that you will have plenty of material with which to work. An ideal situation would be to interview the artist.
3) Taking what you wrote in the worksheet, apply the themes, readings, discussions, etc. from this course to construct an essay around the work. It could deal with male or female imagery, the artist’s intent, the process or style of making the art, the subject matter, the context for viewing, etc. It should not focus on the difference between nudity and nakedness. If you choose to explore these topics, it should be very significant to your reading, i.e. analysis and interpretation, of the work. Allow the details of the work to bring out the analysis and interpretation around questions for gender and art. Decode it and encode it to make the meaning.
4) Research your selected artist, artwork, and gender issues within the artwork you selected that will further support and assist the development of your analysis and interpretation of this work. Follow suggestions from the research focus that Barnet offers. Complete and submit the final version of your essay based on the artwork you selected; feedback on your worksheet questions and ideas; insights you have had since that time; and additional research that you have completed about the artist(s), critics reviews of the artwork, critics discussions of the gender issues portrayed in the artwork, and other related, specific sources.
5) Write an approximately 4-5 page essay that includes at minimum:
2.Detailed, specific descriptions of the artwork and where you found it (include a sketch or photo of the work)
3.An analysis of the art in relation to class themes, readings, lectures, and discussions (Include AT LEAST four specific supporting references. Cite all sources used for ideas. Please see the syllabus and “Course Information” link for further information and guidelines on academic honesty.) The analysis should draw directly and immediately from what the image tells you through details such as composition, scale, line, color, movement, and the like. Apply descriptions of details in the artwork to build your analysis and interpretations.
4.Your personal opinion/argument (this should flow with the analysis and apply the selected readings and related sources as supporting and/or guiding evidence)
6.A reference list of resources cited, please use APA,
Art is a notoriously difficult word/concept to define. Most people often mean extremely different things when they use this term. Horowitz (course readings) gives us much to consider when we think about art. He argues for a broad and inclusive definition. He suggests that art can be: “an object, a certain quality in things, or an experience.” He also suggests that “…whatever its form, it must originate in the mind”, inferring that art making is a human endeavor.
In order to experience art, must we actively participate in our viewing of it? In today’s world, it is generally assumed that each person will have a unique experience with a work of art. Roger Scruton believes that, “What we see is determined by our understanding of it, not the properties of the subject” (Neill and Ridley, 2002, p. 198). How we respond to, and interpret, a work of art will depend on our previous experiences, our beliefs and values, the culture we live in, and the context of viewing. How we respond to a work of art may just depend on the mood we are in that day! Art can be interpreted and enjoyed on many different levels. In this course we will look at and consider art through the filter of gender.
According to BoymelKampen, “People don’t discover gender lying under a cabbage leaf; they build it over generations” (1996, p.17). In other words, gender is the social and cultural construction of femininity, masculinity, and the variations between as opposed to the biological sex (male/female/transsexual). In the U.S., people are generally socialized to be ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ based on the cultural norms and assumptions of society. These assumptions of gender difference are often so embedded into our cultural systems, beliefs, and behaviors that they appear ‘natural’, and thus we tend to take them for granted. Bornstein (course readings) asks us to reconsider the assumptions many people hold. She states that gender equals class. What do you think of when you hear the word gender? How do you connect class and gender? We will explore this further during the term.
ART AND GENDER
So, why study art and gender? What has the one to do with the other? Green (course readings) provides his perspective on the art and nature of gender residing within the individual, of an individual’s creation. The art/nature of themselves. Do you agree or disagree with Green’s view?
Another reason for considering art and gender together is that many of the earliest visual images we have from human culture are directly linked to gender—specifically to issues of fertility and virility. Early humans were driven by the need to survive. Survival was a matter of basic things: primarily, food and reproduction/fertility.
This is a representation of the The Egyptian God Min from the 4th century BCE. The God Min embodied the principal of fertility. Phallic symbols are quite common in ancient art, and often these symbols were considered lucky talismans
Even more prevalent in ancient art were symbols of the female.
This image is a nude figure, known as the Venus of Willendorf, identifiable as a female by the enlarged breasts, stomach, buttocks and thighs. Why do you think the female anatomy might have been represented this way?
Some scholars believe these images represent a Mother Goddess or fertility Goddess. Others believe, based on recently discovered archeological evidence, that these images, which are quite small, actually functioned as magical aids to promote fertility in the women of the society; that is, these images are not depicting the female form per se, but rather, they depict the idea of female fecundity. The artist depicted not a woman, but fertility.
As we shall see through this course, all images have multiple meanings.
Sometimes these images contain messages that promote conformity to social and sexual roles and attitudes such as this 1955 Mademoiselle photograph. promoting the extremes of men’s and women’s expected appearances. At other times, images challenge the typical roles and attitudes such as the image below of Amelia Bloomer, inventor of the “bloomers”.
Understanding and interpreting an image can help us gain insight into a particular culture. It can help us understand who we are and how we fit into a particular system.
This 1975 photograph by Helmut Newton illustrates one of the concepts we will be concerned with in this course. The concept of gazing, that is the act of looking, and how issues of looking might be linked to issues of gender. Throughout most of art history, the male gaze of the nude or semi-nude female body was the standard. Here, Newton attempts to change the gaze. Does he truly accomplish his goal? Or does the fact that the woman’s bodice is open, her skirt short, and her legs spread apart detract from his intention? What about the man wearing trousers and only his torso being bare?
This course will primarily investigate the visual arts because it will be one of the most accessible mediums for each of us in this online format. Though perhaps obvious, the term VISUAL tells us that we experience these art forms primarily through the sense of sight. They communicate to us, and we understand them primarily through the act of looking. This means most of us are well prepared for a study of visual culture. We live in a visual world. We are inundated with visual imagery. For U.S. students, one may consider that, on average, an American will have spent an average of 22,000 hours in front of a television (that is almost 4 years of watching TV 24 hrs a day) by the time they are eighteen. That is certainly a lot of looking!
Consider this question: When we look, do we really see?
Sometimes, we may be so bombarded by visual imagery that we become inured to it, and we don’t consciously ‘see’ these images anymore. Often, it is not until we see something in a new context that an image has the power to startle or move us again.
Another reason this concept of looking is relevant to a study of art and gender is that ‘looking’ is also central to psychoanalytic theories of how identity is constructed. As Bornstein and Green note, it is most often through site that the recognition of sexual difference first occurs for many people.
I hope, through the readings, class discussions, and written assignments to encourage you to look more critically at visual imagery.
So, what are some other things we will explore in this course?
We will examine a variety of art forms and roles language plays in differentiating and categorizing art. We will look at ways some artists have been denied access or have been marginalized in the art world. We will also look at some of the ways artists and art historians have responded to this exclusion or have questioned the status quo.
Often, we will consider contemporary gender roles, attitudes, controversies and perspectives as you continue to develop your own views of the relationships between art and gender. We will explore the role of gender in the workplace (here stereotyped in this 1945 Vogue advertisement for Helene):
in advertising represented by such designers as Calvin Klein, such as in this ad for Secret Obsession featuring Eva Mendes,
and in debates over erotica versus pornography as represented in this 1939 photograph by Horst for Vogue:
Perhaps one of the most obvious reasons why we would study art in relationship to gender–one that is particularly relevant today–is that many artists have taken their experiences as a gendered person as the subject of their own artwork. So any engagement with their art demands an engagement with the question of gender.
Having knowledge about the artist’s life or the time period or culture in which the work of art was created can often help us arrive at more complex and layered interpretations of an image. There are, however, many instances in which careful looking can help us arrive at valid interpretations of an artwork without any additional knowledge other than what we see in the artwork and what we personally bring to the image.
Gender as a Lens For Visual Imagery
How can issues of gender be useful to the study of visual imagery?
Here is a short list of some of the kinds of questions we can ask about gender and art. The list is by no means exhaustive, and I imagine that you will think of other kinds of questions to ask as the term progresses. (Adapted from Gender and Art by Perry, 1999).
1. Was the work of art created by a man or a woman, and can our knowledge of the artist’s sex, gender, or sexuality inform our understanding of the work in any way?
2. Questions of representation. How is gender difference represented in the image? If the image includes figures, how are men and women represented? Does the way in which these figures are rendered suggest specifically feminine, masculine, or androgynous characteristics?
3. What role does gender play in the physical or social environment represented? If figures are present, are they depicted as inhabiting a specific, social, private, or public sphere that could be related to their gender?
4. Can we talk about the actual process of art making in gendered terms? In what ways? Do certain types of art processes lend themselves to this type of inquiry more than others?
5. Does an artist’s gender, sex, or sexuality affect the choices he or she makes in terms of media, subject matter, and imagery, as well as size, shape, and color?
6. What affect does sex, gender, or sexuality have on our responses to and interpretations of a work of art? Does a male viewer see an image of a woman (or man) differently from a female? In what ways do your individual sex, sexuality, and gender affect your interpretations of artworks?
7. Is the way we categorize, collect, and value art influenced by gender? Is the labeling of some arts as fine and some arts as craft influenced by gender issues in any way?
8. How does the role of patronage (who collects works of art) influence art making?
Over the course of the term we will likely touch on many of these questions. This week we’ll take a closer look at a few of these questions, and see how they might be answered.
1.Was the work created by a man or a woman, and can our knowledge of the artist’s gender inform our understanding of the work in any way?
The Proposition, Judith Leyster, 1637
This work is titled “The Proposition”. It is by the Dutch artist Judith Leyster. Look carefully at the painting. To a 21st century viewer, it at first glance appears to be a rather beautiful genre painting of a man and a woman.
But let’s take a closer look. What seems to be happening in the painting? (The title helps us out here). The woman is being propositioned for sexual favors by the man, who is offering her a handful of coins. Works of art showing men making such proposals to women were common in the European Low Countries (Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg) in the 16th and 17th centuries, but works presenting a woman refusing such advances were virtually nonexistent.
The woman portrayed here is not a prostitute. She is most probably a housewife. By intently focusing on her sewing she is clearly trying to ignore the man who is propositioning her. The majority of such images from this time period have a coarse or ribald humor about them and typically portray the woman willingly accepting the male’s advances. In this instance, the artist (a woman) portrayed the woman with another demeanor and response.
Another painting from the same time period that takes a far more typical approach to similar subject matter helps illustrate the difference:
The Procuress, Dirck van Barburen, 1622.
Having knowledge of the time period in which the work is created, comparing similar works from the same time and culture, and, in this case, the titles all contribute to our understanding of the painting.
For example, we can see some of the changing roles and expectations of men and women in relationships with one another as we look at the evolution of romance and relationship in comic books from the mid-20th century to today. Between the end of WWII and the late 1970s, romance comics were a popular comic genre featuring relationships in the intrigue, pull, confusion of romance and love among young adults and high school teens with their “attendant complications such as jealousy, marriage, divorce, betrayal, and heartache” (Wikipedia).
Jack Kirby cover. In Love.True Love Stories, 5.
During this time, stories of traditional male-female relationships, love triangles, familial situations, gender roles, marriage, and the like were normalized so that such comics could be easily sold and not fall under government supervision (see Comics Code (1954) and comic pubishers self-censorship history). Narratives such as these began to sell to fewer audiences with the advent of the sexual revolution, ubiquity of television, feminist movements, and changes in marketing special series to women and children. “The genre’s Golden Age came to an end when Young Romance and its companion Simon and Kirby title Young Love ceased publication in 1975 and 1977 respectively” (Wikipedia).
Though superhero comics have predominated the market since Superman’s first publication in 1938, today, we see reemerging emphasis on relationships in comic books, including within the superhero genre.
Batwoman #1.New 52.4-panel introduction of Batwoman.J. H. Wiliams III, Artist; Writer.
Through her relationships with other women, particularly her partner/lover who is a police detective, Batwoman today offers a glimpse into the challenges of navigating the life of the superhero, the superhero’s alter ego, and daily life.
Some narratives focus on parent-child relations (ex: Alison Bechtel’s Fun Home, 2006), some on peers (Hope Larson’s Chiggers, 2008), some on politics (Joe Sacco’s Palestine, 1996), and some on generational lapses and historical moments (Art Spiegelman’sMaus, 1991).
We also see coming-of-age stories that involve young love relationships and sexual experiences as explored in Blankets (2003) by Craig Thompson
And here we also get to see and feel much of a vulnerable male perspective told by a male storyteller/artist rather than prior “young romance” genre titles featuring female perspectives as assumed by primarily male authors and creators.
These shifts allow for new stories of gender roles, relationships, marriages and divorces, births and deaths to be told in more complex, robust, and potential engaging ways than prior stories of this genre were allowed.
Let’s shift our perspective a bit to introduce the next two questions we’ll be exploring this term.
La Loge,Auguste Renoir, 1874.
This is a painting titled La Loge (The Balcony) by the French artist Auguste Renoir. We can attempt to answer questions 2 and 3 with this image: (2)How is gender difference represented in the image? If the image includes figures, how are men and women represented? Does the way in which these figures are rendered suggest specifically female or male characteristics? and (3) What roles does gender play in the physical or social environment represented? Do the figures inhabit a specific social/domestic/private/public space that could be related to their gender?
This image depicts a bourgeoisie (middle class) man and woman out at the Opera. Images of people socializing in public spaces were popular subjects in mid-to-late 19th century French art. They signaled a newly emerging middle class and the development of modern, urban society.
The main focus of the artwork is an elegantly dressed woman. One might argue that she is presented to the viewer as a beautiful or decorative object. Convention of the time determined that women attending the Opera sit in the front of the box, thus showing the woman and her elegant costume to best advantage. She becomes a spectacle to be looked at while her male companion looks (at the stage? at other people? at who or what?)
This painting could also be discussed in relationship to how gender is rendered. The femininity of the woman is enhanced by her elegant lace and silk costume and passive rather than active stance.
There is a wealth of information in paintings and writings of this time period that show that the ideals of bourgeois/middle class femininity often revolved around models of passivity, domesticity, and prettified images of decorative women. Though these were not the only representations of women available in the visual arts, their prevalence has led such images to be referred to as ‘normative’ constructions of femininity.
Thus, portraits of women were widely expected to represent their decorative qualities, their beauty, and their fashionable and elegant dress, and therefore, by implication, the status and wealth of their husband or family.
This process of representation of women, which transforms them from a woman into an object to be looked at, is often described as the objectification of women. Men can also be objectified in art and other visual culture. For men it often happens (though not always) in relation to the subject’s ethnicity or class status.
4.Can we talk about the actual process of art making in gendered terms?
Perhaps a better way to phrase the question is not can we talk about the actual process of painting in gendered terms, but do we? For centuries, critics and writers have written about art in gendered terms. Lets take a look at one example.
Jackson Pollock at work.
This is a photograph of the American Artist Jackson Pollock (alias the “Big Dripper” or “Jack the Dripper”). He is known as the father of a style of painting called action painting. To many, his working methods and style epitomize the vigorous, masculine realm of artistic genius. The vast majority of the writing about his work is coded in language that emphasizes the masculinity of his working style. The myth that has been built around Pollock emphasizes his hard drinking, tough guy persona and his tortured genius status.
Pollock painted during the post WWII period. Contrary to what you might believe from watching some older television shows, the 1950s was a time of great anxiety over gender roles in American society. American masculinity was felt to be under threat at home and abroad following the expanded roles of women in the workplace during the war and as men returned home to ‘normal’ life following the war. A popular magazine, Look, published a series of articles titled “The Decline of the American Male”.
At the time, there was a great emphasis placed on conformity. The ‘ideal’ man was defined as the responsible company and family man (think of the film, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit). Many men felt emasculated by the conformist role they found themselves in.
An example of Pollock’s work: Lavender Mist.
Pollock’s work struck a chord in the American postwar psyche. Pollock and his art embodied an alternative set of masculine archetypes for Post WWII America. He represented the rebel, the tortured genius, the heavy drinker. His work and working methods were discussed in a language that linked his process of painting to his physical presence, sexuality, nature, and his masculinity. He has been described as ‘pissing on the canvas’ and his working methods have often been described in sexual terms. It was in this gendered language that Pollock and his paintings were canonized.
This is just one example of how much of the writing of the last two centuries discusses the processes of art making in gendered terms. So, for example, in the 19th century, drawing was seen as a more intellectual, and thus, a masculine practice while an interest in color was seen as predominantly female. This view shifted as more artists became concerned with presenting ‘modern’ subjects and the use of innovative techniques. Therefore color and expressive forms became associated with the avant-garde and the masculine. ‘To paint like a man’ was one of the highest compliments a critic or another artist could pay to a woman artist. (Not that women artists necessarily saw it that way!)
FYI: There is a film, Pollock, about Jackson Pollock’s life starring Ed Harris. It has received very good reviews–it might be fun to see in relation to this class.
We can investigate question five in relation to subject matter with this work.
5. Does an artist’s gender or sexuality affect the choices she or he makes in terms of media, subject matter and imagery as well as size, shape, and color.
La Loge, Emilie Charmy, 1902.
This work is also titled La Loge (as was the Renoir work above). It is by the French artist Emilie Charmy (1902). In this case, the title loosely translates as “Artist’s Dressing Room’. However the painting suggests the interior of a brothel. It would have been highly unusual for a woman of Charmy’s middle class background to have visited a brothel. This raises the questions of why and how she chose to paint this scene.
Art historians have pointed out that because of the restrictions of class and gender, women’s experiences of public life would not have been the same as those of contemporary male artists. Public spaces such as café concert halls, bars, and brothels were largely inaccessible to middle-class women. Therefore, most women artists were limited largely to portraying private and domestic activities familiar in middle-class households; these images represent what have been called “the social and pictorial ‘spaces of femininity’” (Pollock, 1988). However, Emilie Charmy wanted to be part of the Parisian avant-garde, and brothels were an extremely popular subject matter for this group of artists–which raises some other interesting questions! One can assume that Emile Charmy looked to her male contemporaries for her subject matter.
Cup of Tea, Mary Cassatt
In contrast, this image by the American artist Mary Cassatt is more representative of the kind of subject matter a female artist would have likely portrayed during this time period.
We can also continue our conversation regarding comics here.
For example, Alison Bechtel tells many personal narratives about her family life growing up. Soft grays and blues often provide backdrop for the stories and allow the audience to experience them while not shouting them out through loud imagery.
Learn more about Bechtel and her work on her website: http:dykestowatchoutfor.com/)
At first glance, MarjaneSatrapi’s work appears to offer a similar riff on color coding and narrative. However, color contrast and subject matter in Satrapi’s work, Persepolis, explores complexities of family relationships, equity and boundaries for women, and political turmoil due to political regime changes in Iran. None of these are necessarily “feminine” or “female” though her work would likely not be as popular as it has been with audiences without the young protagonist’s coming-of-age during a storyline that also highlights political conflict and its effects in family and cultural life.
This brings us to question 6: How does our gender influence the way we look at a work of art? Does a male viewer see an image of a woman (or man) differently from a female?
This is an image taken by a photographer who traveled around the world recording people looking at art. (I realize the image is a little blurry-I hope you can make it out well enough). So, I obviously chose this image because it so nicely illustrates the point. However, we should be cautious about taking any image at face value. Though, to my knowledge this image was not posed or staged, one might wonder how long the photographer had to wait for just the right combination of people to get this particular image.
Nevertheless, the image works. Let’s take a closer look at the paintings the viewers are so carefully scrutinizin
The Clothed Maja, Francisco Goya, 1797.
The Naked Maja, Francisco Goya, 1797.
These two works were painted by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya in 1797. The titles of the two works are the Clothed Maja and the Naked Maja. The term Maja means gypsy in Spanish, but these images are supposedly of the Duchess of Alba, who, rumor has it, was the lover of Goya (though there is an ongoing debate over both of these points). This also brings up some interesting questions: was the Duchess’s image easily recognizable to her contemporaries? were these images considered scandalous or normal for the time? who were the images made for?
Do you notice anything interesting about how the artist has rendered the woman’s nude body? Does it look like a ‘natural’ naked body? An interesting artistic convention is that nude bodies in art often mimic the fashion of the time. So, if women were heavily corseted at the time, their nude bodies are often rendered to look like a corseted naked body would.
Why might this be? It brings us back to the concept of the ‘ ideal’. During this time period, this body type was seen as the ‘ ideal’. Through corseting and other body customization measures women went to great lengths to achieve this ideal. Since artworks often show us the ideal, artists often painted the naked figure not as they truly saw it, but according to the cultural standards of what that ‘ideal’ was. One last point I would like to make about these two paintings is that some people find the image of the Clothed Maja more suggestive and erotic than her naked twin. I am thus very curious as to what it is about the Naked Maja that so fascinates some viewers? Does one’s preference for one of these two paintings have anything to do with gender?
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