Thursday, January 8, 2009
Feminist Art for the Stay at Home Mom
Sunday was my "me" day part 1. Since my son is still breastfeeding and has never taken a bottle I can only be away from him for about 4-5 hours at a time. So I split my "me" day into two parts. I took transit downtown and visited the Vancouver Art Gallery. They have been hosting the art show WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution since October. In previous posts I have talked about my feminism, while in art school I studied feminist theory and feminist art theory. The movement was revolutionary during a time of many revolutions. This retrospective covers the 1960's and 1970's with a bit of work from the eighties as well. I thought that the writing for the show outlining the categories in feminist art were really well put together. For the lay person who has never seen or read about feminist art, these small descriptions would really help one understand the messages behind the art. The categories were numerous for a show as big as this one (120 different artists). They started with Goddess. "Goddess is one of the most pervasive articulations of the feminine; artists working from vastly different cultural referents have been empowered by ideas of earth, mother, and Amazon and inspired by their iconography." I was very excited to see this as I entered the gallery since much of this art was what lead me to my spiritual path and my artistic direction. It was wonderful to see some video works of Ana Mendieta. Untitled (Blood sign #2/Body Tracks) in which Mendieta smears blood on a white wall in the shape of a body. It was very powerful. Mendieta also used her body imprint in snow, ice and in soil to depict her body as earth and the connection between the two. But overall I found that the art works were strangely categorized. I didn't feel that some of the works made sense in their categories and I thought several sections lacked a comprehensive amount of works. Other sections included Gender Performance, Body Trauma, and Making Art History.
Of course I had my favorites and it was great to learn of some international artists and what they were doing in this movement. Lea Lublin moved her 7 month old son and his crib into a Paris gallery and took care of him for the duration of the show. There is not much information about her out there but here is a post from daddytypes.com about her and another artist featured. The piece was entitled Mon Fils (My Son) and was done in 1968. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at this gallery. What would all of those stuffy art critics have thought of that? Definitely revolutionary. This piece stuck with me because it speaks of the personal as art, the creative spark being transcended beyond "art" to life. Lublin was challenging viewers to see the raising of her son as art; the guidance of a human being art and creativity in the "mundane". There were several other great works. Fragile Goddess by Louise Bourgeois and Betye Saar's The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.
This show had so many feminism's for many different types of people. The genre of feminist art is vast, and so I can understand why the exhibit may have lacked in more specific examples.
Overall I was happy to have the chance to see these pieces in my own backyard. It was a great way to spend some free time and see the history of those that have pushed on the parameters of the male dominated art world.
My final thought on this show is that many of the issues raised in this art are still at the forefront of our existence today: Objectification of the female body, equal pay for equal work, motherhood vs. career, racism and a culture of war. My glimmer of hope is that in another 40 years I can visit another retrospective and see that many of these issues have come to a different outcome.
*WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution runs at the Vancouver Art Gallery until January 11, 2009.*