Thursday, November 29, 2012

Five Female Artist Remove a Mask

In the exhibition "Angels and Tomboys" there was the depiction of girls throughout the centuries. Among these are parents depicting their daughters and in these depictions it is apparent the ideal characteristics. Many of the girls hold flowers, dolls, and pets that link to ideas of how girls should be and act. The flowers show how delicate and beautiful girls were expected to be; connected to nature and displayed like the flowers many of them are holding. The dolls and pets are training tools to make these girls good mothers; caring and submissive to both their children and husbands. 

The five female artist go against this image of submissive domesticity. There work shows women existing outside the ideal, not as failures but as they are without labels or pressures of society. They show reality rather than a posed image of "perfection". 

Ana Mendieta 
Her work exist temporary and when will change just as nature changes. This speaks out at looking at women like flowers. When someone looks at a woman as a flower they see her as something that is to be looked at for beauty. They see her as an object to be looked at temporary because just as a flower she will get old and undesirable and will eventually be thrown out and a new fresh one will take her place. In painting her the artist has captured her beauty and so she will live forever in the painting as a fresh new flower that is desirable. Contrasting this idea Mendieta has craved the dirt which is something that people do not paint. She has made the siluette of her body in the dirt. Her work does not intend to permanently capture and image and preserve it. The dirt will shift and change shape but the dirt itself stays the same. 

There is a level of ambiguity in her work that leaves a lot to the viewers interpretation. These pieces for example was made by using gun powder that was laid out and then set on fire. Fire causing a transformation. Fire something that destroys and yet in nature when it destroys something comes up from the ashes. New life is allowed to take hold where the old life once dominated. Her ritualistic approach can be connected to her Cuban background. She uses two elements, fire and earth, to show herself and to put forth her questions of identity. There is an absence although there is a presence. There is a cycle in her use of earth and fire; there is rebirth. 

Alice Barber Stephens
 "The Women in Business" Alice Barber Stephens 1897

"The Women's Life Class" Alice Barber Stephens 1879
 In "The Women in Business" Stephens shows inside a market place; a public space. The people immediately seen are all women, in fact the majority of the people in the room are women. Unlike many of the other depictions of women this one is made with a limited amount of color, there is not flower like colors that pop out. There are different classes of women engaging in business never is there interaction with any man. These women do not seem to be women of virtue or showing any of the same characteristics shown in other paintings showing motherhood, submission, or beauty. These women do not exist posing or waiting to be seen and none look towards a waiting audience.  This last is the same in "The Women's Life Class" where all the women are all unaware of the spectator and the single nude women has her back turned away to the viewer. In her work, Stephen's shows women existing just as they are which does not require interaction or attention from men

Naomi Savage 
Naomi Savage 
What I found interesting about looking at these pictures was that I was able to see my own reflection on the glass. Although I'm sure that this was not intentional and that the glass was meant to protect the images I found deeper meaning in being able to see my own reflection. In my own experience I was able to become part of these pieces. When looking into the one with the face of a women in different poses my face became part of the image. When looking at the mask I saw my own reflection in the mask. The one of the cut out images reminded me of a cookie cutter and the idea that not all of us come from the same mold although we may have our similarities. In the abstract of her photos there is a connection to the other four artist I have chosen. The mask is like the one Sally Mann uses below. She is covering up her face and yet we know that beneath it is the real woman. 
Naomi Savage
Naomi Savage

Sally Mann 
"Jessie as Jessie" Sally Mann 1990
"Jessie as Madonna" Sally Mann 1990

Looking at "Jessie as Madonna" and "Jessie as Jessie" it is hard to tell at first glance that both are images of the same girl. At the Newark Museum they are placed next to the same door on either sides. In "Jessie as Jessie" she looks as an androgynous figure, gender is hard to tell because of her youthful face that gives not hint. But in "Jessie as Madonna" it is obvious that this same person has been transformed into a girl. But not just any girl; Mann has turned the androgynous into a celebrity with the use of makeup. Mendieta used fire as her tool of transformation and Mann uses makeup as hers. The makeup becomes almost like a mask. The mask covers up Jessie's innocence and youth and makes her into a sexual being. This is just like how our culture tends to take the image and put a mask on it making it something different. Behind the mask still exist reality. Mann uses a mask to unmask what our culture does to girls. Hiding reality and making them into something they are not. 

Helen M Stummer
“Arnetha as aChild While Living in Newark” Helen M. Stummer
 “Goddea,Tea Time on Good Friday" Helen M. Stummer
 Helen M Stummer does not go outside her community to find the perfect spot to photograph or look for beautiful things to capture. Instead she looks where many people turn their heads from. Her work is of the impoverished people living in different areas like here in Newark, NJ. Her subjects are not posed waiting on the flash; she chooses to take photos of people just as they are without manipulation. In "Aretha as a Child While Living in Newark" there is a girl fixing herself in the mirror, no doubt she is copying what she has seen adults doing. She is absorbed in her action and it seems to distract her from reality. In "Goddea, Tea Time on Good Friday" once again there is a girl absorbed at the task in hand. This reminds me of the Japanese tea ceremony in which the participates and the host are to block out any of their problems, the past and future, and concentrate on that very moment. There are flowers in the picture. The girls does exactly what society is telling her to do, she is fixing her hair and playing games that mimic the task she will be doing in the future as a wife and mother. But what Stummer does that is different from those depictions is that she shows how these girls who live in a different situation that those of many of the painting live with the same ideas. Doesn't it seem a little ridiculous? Their lives are different but their roles are the same; poverty does not change expectation it seems like her child play is hopeless and does not help change her situation. 

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